Background: There is growing international interest in managing organisational culture as a lever for healthcare improvement. This has prompted a practical need to understand what instruments and tools exist for assessing cultures in healthcare contexts. The present study was undertaken to determine the culture assessment tools being used in the English NHS and assess their fitness for purpose. Methods: Postal questionnaire survey of clinical governance leads in 275 English NHS organisations, with a response rate of 77%. Results: A third of the organisations were currently using a culture assessment instrument to support their clinical governance activity. Although we found a high degree of satisfaction with existing instruments, in terms of ease of use and relevance, there is an immediate practical need to develop new and better bespoke culture assessment tools to bridge the gap between the cultural domains covered by extant instruments and the broader range of concerns of clinical governance managers. Conclusion: There is growing interest in understanding and shaping local cultures in healthcare, which is not yet matched by widespread use of available instruments. Even though extant tools cover many of the most important cultural attributes identified by clinical governance managers, the over-riding focus of tools in use is on safety rather than a holistic assessment of the dimensions of healthcare quality and performance.