This study describes the application of grounded theory to establish older, south Asian patient and carer views of service delivery in the UK. The purpose of the study was to inform the development of culturally sensitive services by defining the concept of cultural sensitivity from a user/carer perspective. The study took place in two community hospitals providing nurse-led intermediate care to a culturally diverse inner city population. Fifty-five per cent of the inner city population is of south Asian origin. Admissions to intermediate care, however, do not reflect the demography. Recent reports commissioned by the Department of Health highlight the failure of the National Health Service in England to provide culturally sensitive services to black and Asian patients. The Department of Health is trying to redress this inequality providing policy guidance for improving access and cultural sensitivity in the British health care system. There is little existing empirical evidence, however, to clarify the concept of culturally sensitive care. Patients and carers in this study described culturally appropriate care as that which respects individuality, creates mutual understanding, caters for spiritual need and maintains dignity. Older south Asian patients and their carers identified respect, understanding, spirituality and dignity as central to their conceptualization of cultural sensitivity. Their focus was on the nature of human relationships and their ability to interact in a positive way with staff. The findings of this small piece of empirical research are limited by the sample size (four patients and three carers), but illustrate that cultural sensitivity, although complex, can be defined. This then provides a basis for developing appropriate care strategies. One universal principle explicit in this research was that to be sensitive to culture staff must challenge their own assumptions and develop an understanding of the many layers of culture and subculture with which they are dealing. The starting point for any service is to understand the expectations of its users and to seek out and manage areas of conflict between organizational values and individuals' cultural requirements.