Each country in the UK has its own independent social care regulatory body, responsible for keeping a register of care homes and other care providers. They are independent watchdogs that make sure the services 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:
Each of the regulators sets 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:
Regulators can inspect a care home or other 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.
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.
CQC inspection ratings are based on five key questions about the service:
The care provider will be rated on each of these questions, according to the following scale:
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.
The CQC has recently announced it is changing the way it handles social care inspections in England. It says it is moving away from relying on a set schedule of inspections to a more flexible, targeted approach. It will still visit a care provider in person where there are concerns or limited data. But it says it won’t always need to carry out an inspection to update a care provider’s rating.
Since 2018 the Care Inspectorate has been gradually rolling out a new framework for inspecting care providers. Under this system, the regulator awards grades to care providers according to how well they measure up on on five key questions:
On each of these questions, the provider is graded on a six-point scale that ranges from 1 (unsatisfactory) to 6 (excellent).
The regulators in Northern Ireland and Wales are responsible for registering and inspecting care services. The regulators don’t give providers a quality rating, but the inspection reports can be downloaded from each of the regulators’ websites.
If you’re choosing a care home or domiciliary care provider, it’s a good idea to read the service’s most recent inspection reports to help guide your decision. However, care inspection reports and ratings are just one part of the picture when it comes to choosing somewhere you’ll feel safe and well looked after. It’s just as important to base your choice on your own preferences and specific care needs.
A glowing report doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the right care provider for you. Likewise, if an inspection report has identified concerns about a specific provider, it doesn’t mean you should entirely write it off. However, it is a good opportunity to ask the provider what steps it has taken to address the concerns since the last inspection.
For more guidance on how to pick the right care provider, and the key questions to ask, read our guides to choosing care services:
If the regulator decides a care provider is not up to scratch and fails to meet the minimum standards, it will ask the failing service for an action plan for improvement and give it a deadline to make changes.
If the deadline is not met, the care regulator can give warnings, fines or even restrict the level of service the provider is able to offer.
If you or a loved one experiences poor care, you have a right to speak up. First, you should raise your concerns directly with the provider, which might include making a formal complaint. Read our guide on for more details. By law, every care provider must have an official channel for dealing with complaints.
If you’re not happy with the way your complaint was dealt with, you could log your concerns with the care regulator. Be aware that the regulator does not settle individual complaints, but letting them know can still be useful as it helps them decide where, when and what to inspect. In England, you can get in touch with the CQC via the on its website.