Almost 6% of Britain's population are of black or minority ethnic origin. There is increasing recognition that the health needs of such groups are not adequately met within the current health care system. One factor in reducing health inequalities is for health professionals to become culturally aware in order to serve these communities effectively. This literature review focuses on pre-registration nursing programmes that address cultural sensitivity as part of basic training. The studies were selected by a computerized search of a number of databases and a hand search of selected nursing journals. The papers were reviewed under the following headings: setting, programme design, conceptual framework, curricula content, student assessment, and course evaluation. The programmes presented were undertaken predominantly in the USA. Either few programmes exist in the UK, or the programme details have not been published. Although, in the UK, cultural sensitivity training appears in its infancy, there are positive signs of change. (C) 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.