Aims. This survey explored issues of ethnicity and culture in nursing homes in one English region. Background. The older black and minority ethnic population in the UK is increasing, and this is the first detailed study of numbers of black and minority ethnic residents in nursing homes and of managers' perceptions of their abilities to respond to residents' needs. Design. Mixed methods. Methods. Date were collected in 2008. A postal survey was sent to all nursing homes in the region. A sub-sample of managers participated in semi-structured telephone interviews. Results. A hundred and one homes responded to the survey, and 13 managers were interviewed. One-third of homes had black and minority ethnic residents, and 95% had staff from these groups. Managers' underlying philosophies of care were to treat each resident individually and not by category. It was felt that individualised care plans resulted in residents' needs being met appropriately. Culturally sensitive care delivery varied. Some homes had established systems that were responsive to residents' diversity, while others responded to the needs of black and minority ethnic residents on an 'as-required' basis. Managers' identified advantages in having staff from diverse backgrounds, although prejudice from residents towards staff emerged as a theme and managers' responses varied. Staff training in the provision of appropriate end-of-life care was identified as a need. Conclusion. Black and minority ethnic residents form a small but growing minority of nursing home residents. Predicted increases in this resident group mean that managers must consider the delivery of culturally sensitive services. Future research is needed to explore the perspectives of black and minority ethnic residents. Relevance to clinical practice. Nursing homes in England are increasingly diverse communities, and staff training needs must be addressed to promote quality care for all residents.