Reciprocal mentoring

In January 2023, we commenced reciprocal mentoring pilot with 10 staff. The group represented a variety of roles across the NHS Trusts, VCSE and the Integrated Care Board (ICB). The pilot ran from January to November 2023. Delivery included an initial training session, with materials co-produced with our neurodivergent colleagues to ensure that they were accessible. All colleagues completed an ‘about me profile’ sharing some information about themselves and how they prefer to work and communicate. Learning Partners then met throughout the pilot, attending a mid-review in July and final review in November.

Having a diverse workforce and supporting our staff to be their best at work and flourish is a key priority. Through our work on inclusive recruitment and through feedback at different forums across the Partnership, we were hearing feedback from our neurodivergent colleagues about challenges they face in their daily work life. There was also a lack of awareness about reasonable adjustments that can be easily implemented to support colleagues. One tool to tackle the culture change needed to support this cohort and to influence change, is reciprocal mentoring. This gives staff the opportunity to work with a more senior learning partner and share their experiences and challenges, and it gives the senior leader the opportunity to gain a better insight into how to support staff. The pilot evaluated well and some of the partners are continuing to meet on a regular basis.

The full evaluation is available to read here, but in summary colleagues reported the following:

  • They valued the opportunity to be open, honest, share experiences and to raise awareness about neurodivergence strengths and support needs in the workplace.
  • Learnt more about to work effectively with neurodivergent colleagues.
  • The learning influenced senior leader’s strategy and approach and changed their personal behaviour.
  • Senior colleagues gained insight into how run meetings differently to support neurodivergent colleagues.

We heard feedback about how to make the training more applicable which we will work on for future cohorts. We also saw the value in having more facilitated sessions of the pairs and peer support arrangements between the colleagues. These simple steps could be incorporated into the future programmes. One question from the group, was why focus just on neurodiversity - should the offer be wider?

Whilst the group saw the value in this, they felt that this could potentially dilute the benefits of the focus on neurodiversity. It was agreed that the programme should continue to focus on neurodiversity, but with more of an intersectional lens. This cohort was predominantly white and spoke English as their first language with mixed gender representation. Consideration should be given for future cohorts to be neurodivergent but include representation across other protected characteristics. The training will be adapted to also include this focus.

We’re currently finalising the training resources and will be launching these soon. If you would be interested in implementing reciprocal mentoring in your organisation, please contact


Reasonable adjustments

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Reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement to make sure health services are accessible to all disabled people (Equality Act 2010). This includes people with a physical disability, sensory disability, learning disability or a long-term condition such as dementia.

The development of the Reasonable Adjustment Digital Flag on the NHS spine holds huge potential for improving health outcomes for people with learning disabilities and autism, and potentially saving lives. Following publication of an Information Standard Notice in 2023, organisations are preparing for implementation by 31 March 2024.

Reasonable Adjustments are things like:

  • making sure there is wheelchair access
  • providing easy read appointment letters
  • giving someone a priority appointment if they find it difficult waiting in their GP surgery or hospital
  • booking longer appointments if someone needs more time to  understand the information they are given
  • changes that require significant planning across the health and care team to enable access to an appointment.

Use this training programme Caring for People with Learning Disabilities elearning to find out about reasonable adjustments, annual health checks and more.