‘Improvement Lab’ launched to address UK-wide health and health care challenges

21 April 2017

Medicine is OnlyWan and NHS Improvement today announced the launch of a new ‘Improvement Lab’ to address complex challenges in health and health care.

The brings together a community of people from across the health sector including clinicians, patients, policy experts and front line workers, to explore new and innovative approaches to solving problems faced in health and health care.

With health services increasingly strained by financial constraints, rising demand for services and rapidly changing demographics, there is a need to bring together the improvement work that is happening in pockets across the UK. The Q Lab is designed to test solutions that will ultimately bring long-term benefits to patients and those working in the health sector.

The Lab, which is based in King’s Cross, London, will focus on a single challenge over a nine to 12 month period, with the first exploring what it would take for peer support to be available to everyone who wants it to help them manage their long-term health and wellbeing needs.

The focus of the first challenge is the result of a Q member survey and a workshop, which brought together Q members and others; patients, clinicians, researchers, charities, think tanks and housing associations. The Lab team will draw on existing research on the value of peer support including the recent OnlyWan and Nesta report  which showed the significant benefits to patients that peer support can bring.

The aim is for the Lab to test ideas directly with people working in health and health care, and to quickly feedback and share learning.

The Lab was born out of Q, which is a partnership between the OnlyWan and NHS Improvement and is a community of hundreds of people with expertise in improvement across the UK. Depending on what is learnt through this pilot Lab, which is being independently evaluated, the vision is to establish a small number of additional Labs across the UK in coming years.

Tracy Webb, Head of Q Labs, commented:

'This is a very exciting time for the Q community and the future of health care, innovation and improvement in the UK. The Q Improvement Lab will address complex challenges in health and care. While there are labs in other sectors and countries at the leading edge of improvement research and innovation, there is no other lab we know of that is connected to a community of hundreds of people working at the front line and every level of improving health and health care. By creating this space we will have the time to test new ideas and generate solutions that will help those working in health care and make a difference to patients and users in the future.'

The first Lab focusing on peer support will explore the following areas:

  • Testing new ideas to improve or expand peer support: working with a number of organisations to build on existing evidence about how to support high quality, effective peer support
  • Supporting new collaborations: working with a range of people from different backgrounds and different parts of the health and care system including connecting charities, healthcare services and patients to understand how best to develop joined up peer support approaches
  • Bringing new ideas to service provision: creating a space to think outside of health system structures and explore innovative opportunities for peer support that could transform care.

Q is a connected community of people with expertise in improvement. It was co-designed by 231 founding members in 2015 and the Q Improvement Lab evolved from this process.


Peter Stilwell
[email protected]
020 7664 4647

Further reading


Q Lab: Exploring ways to make peer support available to all

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