We were interested to read Janet Snell's article on mentoring ('Head to head', pages 22-25, 11 November), especially the assertion that medical staff mentoring is something 'soft and girlie'.

As an NHS organisation supporting staff education, Birmingham and Solihull education consortium has formed an alliance with 12 trusts (spanning acute hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services, two health authorities, and the regional office) to respond to demand for mentoring.

Enthusiastically supported by the chief executives of all these organisations, our purpose is to enable staff across all professions to form mentoring relationships with experienced executives or senior managers. This scheme will complement, rather than replace, existing in-house mentoring programmes and can be accessed by those for whom an external mentor would be beneficial.

We agree with Dr David Clutterbuck that the success rate is enhanced many times where prior training is provided both to potential mentors and those seeking mentors. There is no doubt that many people are benefiting from informal mentoring relationships, but benefits could be greater when such relationships, while remaining informal, are linked to a formal scheme.

The mentors in the article implied that they enjoyed the role, although it was often difficult to explain to a potential volunteer mentor what the benefits would be.

They seemed to be threefold: the 'buzz' people get from being able to pass on wisdom and see other (not necessarily younger) people develop and grow from it; the insights into how people at other levels in the industry perceive the issues and the politics affecting their working environment, enabling mentors to reflect on their own opinions and beliefs; and the practical benefits of contact names and network building going beyond direct contact with those being mentored.

Vicky Lyn Davison Vice chair PAN-Birmingham Mentoring Scheme