Coronavirus Read our latest advice

We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Financing care
Learn about funding options for home care, home adaptations and care homes, together with Attendance Allowance, gifting assets and Power of Attorney.
Housing options
Consider your options and learn about sheltered housing, retirement villages and care homes.
End of life
Guidance on the practical and emotional aspects at the end of life, from planning end of life care to arranging a funeral and coping with bereavement.

Quality and regulation of care providers

National regulators check care providers in the UK: we explain who they are, their minimum standards and the process of care service inspections.
4 min read
In this article
Who are the regulatory bodies in health and social care? What do the regulators monitor? What do the regulator's inspections look at?

Who are the regulatory bodies in health and social care?

Each country in the UK has its own independent healthcare regulatory body, responsible for keeping a register of care providers. They are independent watchdogs that inspect the registered care providers to make sure the services they provide come up to scratch. By law, all care providers in the UK must provide services to minimum standards of safety and quality. The four regulators in the UK are:

What do the regulators monitor?


Each of the four regulators has set minimum standards that someone receiving care should expect. These standards are documented and can be downloaded from the respective regulator’s website.


For example, the person being cared for should be: 

  • treated politely and with dignity
  • able to deal with their own finances and spend their money how they choose
  • able to eat food prepared in line with their faith and to worship when and where they want to
  • able to complain if they’re unhappy with their care.
Use our directory to find local care homes, home care agencies and carer support services across the UK.

What do the regulator's inspections look at?

Regulators can inspect a care provider at any time. How often they are inspected depends on the rating they received at the last inspection, and the feedback given by care home residents, clients and local authorities. Generally, those providers with poor ratings or negative feedback will be inspected more frequently than those that are doing well.

Inspection reports

Following an inspection of a care provider, details of the findings are written into a report. These reports are publicly available – you can request a copy from the care provider or the regulator or find them on the regulators’ websites. We also link to the reports from our care services directory.

Inspections in England

In our directory, we publish the more recent CQC inspection ratings, which apply to five key questions:

  1. Are they safe? You are protected from abuse and avoidable harm.
  2. Are they effective? Your care, treatment and support achieves good outcomes, helps you to maintain quality of life and is based on the best available evidence.
  3. Are they caring? Staff treat you with compassion, kindness, dignity and respect.
  4. Are they responsive to people’s needs? Services are organised so that they meet your needs.
  5. Are they well led? The leadership, management and governance of the organisation make sure it’s providing high-quality care that’s based around your individual needs. It encourages learning and innovation, and it promotes an open and fair culture.

Each aspect is individually rated as:

  • Outstanding: the service is performing exceptionally well
  • Good: the service is performing well and meeting the CQC’s expectations
  • Requires improvement: the service isn’t performing as well as it should and the CQC have told the service how it must improve
  • Inadequate: the service is performing badly and the CQC have taken action against the person or organisation that runs it.
  • Unavailable: used when the CQC hasn’t yet inspected a newly registered or re-registered provider.

An overall rating is also applied. Care providers are legally obliged to display the results of their most recent inspection on their premises and website, if they have one.


Inspections in Scotland


In Scotland, new Health and Social Care Standards were introduced in April 2018. They aim to ensure that individuals receiving care are treated with respect and dignity, and say that they should:

  • experience high-quality care and support that is right for them
  • be fully involved in all decisions about their care and support
  • have confidence in the people who support and care for them
  • have confidence in the organisation providing their care and support
  • experience a high-quality environment if the organisation provides the premises.

In our care services directory we show the Care Inspectorate’s quality grades awarded to each care provider, for the following areas.

  • Quality of care and support: how well the service meets the needs of each person who uses it
  • Quality of environment: where the service is delivered; for example, how clean, well maintained and accessible it is, the atmosphere of the service, how welcoming it is
  • Quality of staffing: the quality of the staff, including their qualifications and training
  • Quality of management and leadership: how the service is managed and how it develops to meet the needs of the people who use it.

Each aspect is individually graded on the following scale:

  • Grade 6: excellent
  • Grade 5: very good
  • Grade 4: good
  • Grade 3: adequate
  • Grade 2: weak
  • Grade 1: unsatisfactory

We’re unable to link to each provider’s inspection report from the directory, but there is a link to the Care Inspectorate’s 'find a care service' page for you to search further.

Inspections in Northern Ireland and Wales

The regulators in Northern Ireland and Wales don’t award providers with ratings.

Further reading

Choosing a home care agency

If you’re searching for care at home, our step-by-step guide helps you decide how to get the best help for your needs.

Choosing a care home

How to make a shortlist of suitable care homes, and uncover key information to ensure your loved one’s needs are met.

Last updated: 23 Apr 2019