Background: Minority ethnic groups in the UK are reported to have a poor experience of mental health services, but comparative information is scarce. Aims: To examine ethnic differences in patients' experience of community mental health services. Method: Trusts providing mental health services in England conducted surveys in 2004 and 2005 of users of community mental health services. Multiple regression was used to examine ethnic differences in responses. Results: About 27,000 patients responded to each of the surveys, of whom 10% were of minority ethnic origin. In the 2004 survey, age, living alone, the 2004 survey, age, living alone, detention and hospital admissions were stronger predictors of patient experience than ethnicity. Self-reported mental health status had the strongest explanatory effect. In the 2005 survey, the main negative differences relative to the White British were for Asians. Conclusions: Ethnicity had a smaller effect on patient experience than other variables. Relative to the White British, the Black group did not report negative experiences whereas the Asian group were most likely to respond negatively. However, there is a need for improvements in services for minority ethnic groups, including access to talking therapies and better recording of ethnicity.