Black nurses are not being promoted to top jobs within the NHS despite making up a fifth of the workforce, a report has found.
The Nursing Standard, the UK's leading nursing journal, compiled the data after sending Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 40 NHS trusts.
It discovered that at eight of the 40 organisations there were no black or ethnic minority (BME) nurses in most senior - Band 8 -positions which pay between £46,621 to £97,478.
Department of Health figures show that 94 per cent of nursing directors in 140 NHS trusts across England are white.
The most severe shortages were found outside London, the report revealed.
According to the data, BME nurses represent 14 per cent of all of those employed by Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust but only 17 out of 614 were in Band 7 posts. None held top jobs.
The trust's deputy chief nurse, Chris Morley, told the Nursing Standard that it actively encouraged all staff to consider progression into more senior roles.
"We have a series of leadership development programmes to enable this progression where appropriate," he added. One of the challenges that could prevent BME nurses from rising through ranks is that they are more likely to face disciplinary action than white counterparts.
Uduak Archibong, head of the University of Bradford Centre for Inclusion and Diversity, said white staff were more likely to be let off with informal warnings.
White managers lacked confidence in dealing with staff from different cultural backgrounds.
Wendy Irwin, diversity and equalities coordinator at the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), said the lack of representation could feel forced out of the profession.
"Whenever there is restructuring within the NHS it tends to be senior BME nurses who disappear," she said. "Organisations are losing skilled, talented and competent nurses."
Yvonne Yoghill, the project leader for inclusion on the NHS Leadership Academy programme, is working with the RCN to launch a network of former and aspiring BME nurse directors to act as mentors and role models.