Objectives: To develop an explanatory framework of the problems accessing primary care health services experienced by British South Asian patients with a long-term condition or mental health problem.Methods: This study used meta-ethnographic methods. Published qualitative studies were identified from a structured search of six databases and themes synthesized across studies to develop a new explanatory framework.Results: Initial searches identified 951 potentially relevant records from which a total of 27 articles were identified that met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Twelve of these articles were chosen on the basis of their quality and relevance. These 12 articles described themes relating to the cultural, spatial and temporal dimensions of patient experiences of accessing and using health care. Our interpretive synthesis showed that access to primary care among British South Asians with diabetes, coronary heart disease and psychological health problems is co-constructed and negotiated over time and space along the key domains of the candidacy model of access: from help-seeking to interactions at the interface to following treatment advice. In the case of each condition, British South Asians' claims to candidacy were constrained where their individual as well as broader social and cultural characteristics lacked fit with professionals' ways of working and cultural typifications.Conclusion: Interventions that positively affect professionals' capacity to support patient claims to candidacy are likely to help support British South Asians overcome a broad range of barriers to care for physical and mental health problems. © 2012 The Author(s) Reprints and permissions.