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What are the Q Improvement Labs?

The Q Improvement Labs (Q Labs) will bring people together from across the UK to work on complex challenges facing health and care.

Social innovation – or change – labs are a relatively new way of tackling complex challenges. All labs are different but share common characteristics such as designing new solutions based on the needs and experiences of the user; testing new ideas; and working with a diverse group of people.

The Q Labs will draw on these approaches, combining them with the improvement and health research that the Health Foundation and others have done on this area, and collaborate with the Q community to test new ideas and share learning.

Each lab will focus on a specific challenge for nine to 12 months. We will use existing knowledge to develop an in-depth understanding on the issue, conduct further research and analysis, generate ideas and test solutions.

We have funding for one year from the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement to setup a pilot Lab and test the lab model in practice.

The Labs aim to contribute to challenges that many people and organisations are grappling with, that will ultimately make a difference to patients and staff.

The labs story so far…

2015: During the co-design for Q, the idea for ‘improvement labs’ emerged.

Spring 2016: A small team was setup by the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement to develop how a Q improvement lab would work in reality.

May 2016: Early thoughts for how the Q Improvement Labs would operate were presented at Q community events in Leeds and London

Summer 2016: We connected with other labs across the world to learn more about the lab philosophy, how to setup a lab and work with diverse communities.

Autumn 2016: We received funding from the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement to setup a pilot Lab and test the model.

January – February 2017: 447 Q members were asked to vote on the theme the Lab should work on for the next 12 months. The theme ’empowering people to manage their own health and care needs’ was chosen.

March – April 2017: The Lab team moves into a new office at Kings Cross. We held a small workshop with a diverse range of people, including a number of Q members, to identify areas within the theme that the Lab could explore over the year.

Our approach


Collaboration is at the heart of the Lab, working with people from across the UK and form a variety of organisations and disciplines.

Different perspectives to complex problems

The Lab process will draw on quality improvement techniques, building on the expertise and experience of Q members, as well as drawing on social innovation approaches – such as user-centered design – which feature in a number of labs across the world.

Working at scale

The Q Labs were born out of Q and so have access to the Q community (hundreds of people across the UK who are already working to improve health and care). Through that community, there is a great opportunity to test ideas directly with staff and patients, and to quickly feedback and share learning.


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