A new study has found the proportion of senior NHS positions held by people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds has barely changed in eight years, with progress towards better representation labelled as “glacial”.

A study by a Middlesex University academic, The Snowy Peaks of the NHS, found the number of appointments to NHS trust boards of people from a BME background dropped from a high of 8.7 per cent in 2006 to just 5.8 per cent in 2013 – its second lowest rate since 2007.

From 2008 to 2013, the proportion of senior and very senior managers from a BME background on Agenda for Change salary bands 8a to 9 rose by just 0.2 percentage points to 5.9 per cent. This amounts to just 393 BME senior and very senior managers out of 6,666 working in the NHS.

The report also found the number of BME nursing directors at NHS trusts in England has remained unchanged since 2008 at 3 per cent – equivalent to five out of a total of 195.

In contrast, the number of medical consultants from a BME background has increased from 26 per cent in 2006 to 35 per cent in 2013.

At a national level, NHS England has two BME board members, while the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Care Quality Commission and Monitor have none.

The report also looked in detail at London, which has a BME population of almost 45 per cent and an NHS workforce, excluding doctors, which is 41 per cent BME.

Across the capital, the study revealed just 7.4 per cent of trust executive directors and 10.4 per cent of non-executive directors came from a BME background.

More than two-fifths of London NHS trusts had no voting BME member on their board.

Report author Roger Kline told HSJ the report suggests progress of BME applicants into trust board positions was “glacial, or has stopped altogether”.

“This study shows the service has been in denial about the scale of the problem,” he said. “There is a repeating pattern of people saying ‘it isn’t good but it’s getting better’, when actually it has got worse.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said NHS England, NHS Employers and the NHS Leadership Academy were “undertaking a range of initiatives” to improve BME representation at senior levels, including a mentoring scheme.