Photo of the winners of the 'Best Contribution to Research Delivery outside of the NHS' award at the Greater Manchester NIHR awards 2023. Left to Right: Roger Spencer, Chairman (CRN GM Partnership Group), Donna Waterson, Trial Manager (GMMH), Niamh Bolton (BfB Labs), Rachel Rosenhead, Research Initiation and Delivery Manager (GMMH) and John Sainsbury, Innovation Manager (GMMH) What is Innovation?

Innovation is a key element of the work we do in the R&I department. Alongside evaluating and testing new therapies or medicine, it is equally important that as a Trust we are looking to new technologies and systems to improve efficiency, support patient care and solve problems.

Innovation can be defined as a successful step-change in a system, service or project. It can involve the introduction of something new to the world or new to the context. Innovation explores problems, generates ideas and implements successful practices.



A photo of a child's hands playing on a mobile phone. Grass background. Logo for mobile app Lumi Nova Tales of Courage Examples of innovations in mental healthcare can include...

  • Changes from paper based to electronic or digital systems and processes
  • Changes in types of treatments available - e.g., use of VR (Virtual Reality) to support people overcome fears of going outdoors
  • Video-based clinical consultations rather than clinic-based consultations
  • Use of health and wellbeing apps to improve personal health management
  • Use of data driven analytical systems to support decision-making
  • Use of voice recognition software rather than using keyboards as data inputting interface


Innovation at GMMH

One of the Trust’s core objectives is to “continuously improve services for users through Research, innovation and digital technology”, and our innovation team is central to delivering this goal. Led by Innovation Manager John Sainsbury, the team delivers the following projects:

Secure Data Environment (SDE)

This project aims to support and facilitate the safe use of mental health data for research by putting anonymised data into a Secure Data Environment (SDE).

Researchers would use the SDE to try and understand why people become unwell, or to predict and prevent people from becoming more unwell. It can also be used to complete drug audits, clinical audits, service evaluations, feasibility studies and more. 

Because the SDE would be for Greater Manchester, it would help researchers understand more about trends and statistics in our region. This could in turn help with planning services and health campaigns in Greater Manchester. 

Innovation Pipeline

Innovative ideas and digital technology can lead to improved experience and outcomes for service users and staff. To ensure that our service users and staff at GMMH benefit from effective innovations, we have a process to assess new innovations and pilot them in services; this is what we call the Innovation Pipeline. 

If an innovation is proven to be effective with our service users and staff, we will support the service to implement this innovation more permanently.

Digital Navigators

Digital Navigators are members of healthcare teams who understand and can advise on using digital technology to support staff and service users. GMMH runs a 6-week training programme for volunteer Digital Navigators.

The training covers multiple aspects of digital health including evaluating interventions using guidance such as NICE and ORCHA, learning about services at GMMH, understanding the importance of accessibility and interoperability, and emphasising the important role digital navigators have within teams.

After the training, the volunteer Digital Navigators have the opportunity to work in services across the Trust, to support with using digital technology.

Innovation Training

A photo of six people at a table doing a workshop. Quote overlaid saying: ‘It was fascinating to learn about how to jump from one innovation curve to the next – that is how to take that big leap forward. The knowledge I gained on the course helps shape my thinking about problems and solutions.” Anthony, a sales manager Our Innovation team offers training courses to help you learn new ways to explore, think about, and solve complex problems.

When faced with a complex work, system, or organisational problem, it is common to feel stuck in a rut and that the current way is the only way. Although you might know something needs to change, it can be hard to make sense of what that is. This course teaches you the necessary skills and tools to better understand your problem, apply a new range of thinking styles to explore the underlying issues, and importantly, find solutions.  

We offer two training options:   

  • For service users and NHS staff: a two-day course available to book through the Recovery Academy 
  • For NHS managers, clinicians and services: bespoke training packages for teams who want to work together to solve their current problems, and learn the tools they need to solve future problems – please contact for more information  

This training course will introduce you to a range of Systematic Innovation tools. You will also gain an introductory understanding of Inventive Principles, which are robust, solution focused strategies. 

You will bring your own problem to the course and will have the opportunity to work through this using Systematic Innovation tools and Inventive Principles, with the support of our trainers. At the end of the course, you will have gained a greater understanding of your current challenge and how to address it. You will also be able to use the Systematic Innovation toolkit in any situation to gain greater insights into the issue you are facing and how to solve it.

Get in touch

Meet the Innovation team

Innovation Manager: John Sainsbury

John manages projects involving the adoption and evaluation of digital therapeutics either through research or real-world implementation. He is driving forward our strategic objective to make better use of patient data for research and innovation. He also offers training and coaching on the use of innovative thinking approaches to complex problems and the generation of innovative solutions and oversees the Research & Innovation Communications Team.

Find out more! 

Email us

  • gameChange VR therapy

    The gameChange VR therapy is for people living with psychosis whose fears have caused them to become largely housebound. The automated VR therapy programme allows a person to practise, at their own pace, being in virtual simulations of everyday situations. 

    Following the largest ever clinical trial of VR technology in mental health, led by Oxford University, a real-world pilot project is being delivered at GMMH to evaluate whether it is possible to implement gameChange within NHS clinical settings. Early Intervention in psychosis and community mental health teams (CMHTs) across the Trust are involved in this pilot study, with support from a service user researcher and clinical psychologist for training and mentoring during the study.

  • Lumi Nova: Tales of Courage

    Lumi Nova: Tales of Courage is a therapeutic mobile game for childhood anxiety. The immersive game is designed for children aged between seven and twelve years old to teach young people to self-manage their fears and worries. In this implementation study, the research team and GMMH’s Schools Link Team engaged with schools in Wigan and Bolton to incorporate Lumi Nova into the care pathway, making this achievement possible.  

  • XR in Mental Health ecosystem event

    Long-standing innovation partners, the University of Manchester and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) want to drive the integration of immersive technologies in mental health treatment. Their respective Digital Futures and Innovation teams brought together experts from across the country to showcase existing technologies, ongoing research studies and treatments already being used in the NHS.  

    The goal of the full-day conference was to facilitate new collaborations, develop research ideas and build new partnerships to drive forward this area of mental health care. Round table discussions were interspersed throughout the day where presenters and attendees could explore XR research ideas, challenges and opportunities. 

As a patient

As a service user, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Find resources for carers and service users  Contact the Trust