Reverse Mentoring for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ReMEDI): building inclusive leadership and culture

What is ReMEDI? 

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (DHCFT) has been operating in partnership with the University of Nottingham (UoN) and our Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Colleagues Network in order to establish the ‘reverse mentoring’ programme: pioneering action research based on the sharing of experiences between DHCFT leaders and diverse staff. It turns traditional mentorship on its head as board members become the mentees and it aims to educate leaders about diversity issues by exposing them to challenging and insightful conversations and experiences that they may otherwise never encounter. 

The purpose of the programme is to promote awareness of equality and to be able to influence meaningful understanding and lived experience of our staff from different groups. 

Our approach has been based on our intent to value and embrace collaborative working with our BME Colleagues Network in order to make a positive difference. It enables us to demonstrate the delivery of our values and equality objectives in terms of advancing equality by closing the gaps identified in the Workforce Race Equality Standards, promoting good relations between different groups and future proofing our organisation.


Mentors volunteered from the Trust’s BME Colleagues Network and all mentees sit on DHCFT’s Board of Directors. 

The mentors and mentees were trained and paired in May 2018 with positive feedback through peer support, facilitated by Stacy Johnson MBE, Associate Professor at UoN. 

“As a mentor, I helped the mentee to understand cultural differences and grass roots and explored bridging the differences with a working knowledge and depth. We discussed local projects, the implications of these projects and how the Trust can be more involved”. – Kuldip Rangi, Specialist Pharmacist.

“I am so proud of our Directors because they have listened and learned by working out of their comfort zone and walking in our shoes”.Sharon Rumin, Team Administrator at the Hope and Resilience Hub and Vice Chair of the BME Colleagues Network.

Benefits to staff and the Trust 

The programme benefits staff and patient care in the Trust. Sharon Rumin made a comparison between staff wellbeing and patient care: one cannot exist without the other. She stated that the programme has allowed her to be open and honest with her mentee about pressing issues within the Trust and highlighted the effort to improve opportunities for all: “There’s so much work that still needs to be done which will benefit BME and others, it’s about equal opportunities for all not just the few”.

Participants have also reported feeling more confident. Tray Davidson, Youth and Community Worker, Derbyshire Early Intervention in Psychosis Service, said: “I feel that it has benefited me in giving me more confidence in allowing me to ‘speak my truth’ when meeting up with Ifti on cultural/diverse issues that are very close to our hearts. Finding possible solutions to make our working environment/organisation more inclusive will also have a positive impact on the people that use our services”.

The future of ReMEDI 

Many mentors and mentees would like to continue with the programme even as it draws to a close. The benefits that have been drawn from the sharing of experiences across cultural boundaries have been fascinating and useful for the Trust, allowing leaders to be more mindful of equality, diversity and inclusion in our organisation, which not only benefits staff but also the thousands of patients that use our service daily. For this reason, the Trust plans to embed this scheme as part of its core leadership programme and roll it out to other protected characteristics.

There was a celebration event in February to mark the programme coming to an end where the participants will discuss the positive steps that have been taken and are to be continued in the future.  

“…even though the pilot has come to an end, we will carry on meeting up and at times experience ‘stepping into each other’s world.” Tray Davidson.

Recommendations to other NHS organisations 

“I feel so honoured to have been giving this amazing opportunity and feel that other organisations would benefit from this project because the results would make a positive impact on the communities that we serve”. – Tray Davidson.

“Be bold, take a leap of faith, you don’t know if you will succeed, but at least you will have tried…Sharing it with everyone I talk to and to see how they are intrigued and fascinated by the work we have done so far and the positive steps we are taking is uplifting”.  Sharon Rumin

Suggestions for improvement:

Feedback from the programme has been positive and wide-ranging. Some suggestions for improvement have emerged including rolling out the programme to other levels of the organisation:

“Reverse mentoring should start from team manager not Director level as most of the BME staff experience starts at team level”. – Surinder Khakh.

Mentee feedback:

“The exploratory work that each pair has undertaken has led to some initial changes and work programmes; challenging recruitment processes, training and development”.Amanda Rawlings, Director of People Services and Organisational Effectiveness 

“The opportunity to spend time with my mentor has given me the safe space to explore some of my fears about unconscious bias, learn about experiences of BME staff within our Trust and most importantly widen my perspective and challenge some long held views… I have taken the opportunity of sharing my learning with my teams and wider staff to share the benefit of this mentoring process”.Samantha Harrison, Director of Corporate Affairs.

“I found that the reverse mentoring has helped improve my reflective practice particularly around the issue of people from different ethnic minorities and their experience under the Mental Health Act…Mandi introduced me to a community group where we discussed this and other issues…I think there are many lessons to be learnt for our STP/Joined Up Derbyshire initiatives and the challenge now will be to work with commissioners so we can bridge the existing gap and avoid the risk of the issue becoming lost in the current divide between primary and secondary care services”. Dr. John Sykes, Medical Director.

Implementation and Next Steps: Celebration Event for the Cohort of 2018 

A celebration event was held at the Research & Development Centre at Kingsway Hospital, where mentors presented their mentees with certificates to commemorate the occasion and they were presented with certificates in return.

A Reverse Mentoring Steering group has been set up to start planning for the next reverse mentoring cohort and embed the ReMEDI programme into the Trust’s core leadership programme.

“I think ReMEDI is a real game changer. I have found the whole experience to be so enriching on a personal level as well as on a professional level. It has had a profound impact on us all with the power shift truly evident in practice with our mentors being the experts. I feel confident as it rolls out more widely, that its impact will grow and grow to make a long-lasting difference throughout Derbyshire Healthcare. It has enormous potential to positively impact colleagues throughout the organisation as well as building more effective bridges to the BME communities we serve”.Claire Wright, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Finance.