How we inspect
Once a provider is registered with us, we monitor their compliance with the essential standards of quality and safety.
We do this through the work of our inspectors, who each have a portfolio of care services. They have continual oversight of all the information we hold about the services they are responsible for.
These standards place people’s experiences at the centre.
Find out more about the 16 Essential standards.
We inspect most hospitals, care homes and home care agencies at least once a year. We inspect dental services at least once every two years.
All inspections are unannounced unless there is a very good reason for us to give notice to a provider.
Inspectors spend most of their time on an inspection directly observing care and talking to patients or people using the service and their families or carers, as well as staff.
Inspectors may be accompanied by experts – either subject matter experts or ‘experts by experience’ (people who have in-depth experience of using services).
There are three types of inspection:
- Scheduled – these are inspections carried out on a rolling programme. Providers are not told the date of a scheduled inspection.
- Responsive – these are carried out when concerns are raised over a provider’s compliance with the standards.
- Themed – these are carried out when we review a particular type of service (such as our Review of learning disability services) or a specific set of standards (such as our Dignity and nutrition inspection programme).
Our inspections are tailored to the type of care provided and the information we hold about the service, including the concerns that people have told us about. Our inspectors focus on a minimum of five of the standards for most types of service.
We have published a guide to help you prepare for, and understand, our inspections. It includes suggestions for things you may want to consider in order to be ready for when we inspect your service.
There is one version of the guide for adult social care services, which we co-produced with the Care Provider Alliance, and another for other sectors.
Following an inspection, our inspector will judge the provider to be either compliant or non-compliant with the regulations.
If the provider is judged to be non-compliant, the inspector will decide the impact on people using the service. This can be minor, moderate or major, and helps the inspector decide what action to take.
You can find out about the range of actions available to us in our section on How we enforce.
We publish reports from all our inspections on this website. You can read more about How we publish elsewhere in this section.
You can also find all the reports published each week on our Latest reports page.
To monitor the compliance of providers, we also use information from a range of other sources, including the experiences of care that patients and people have told us about, local involvement networks and speak out groups, whistleblowers and other regulators.
Our Quality and Risk Profile (QRP) for each provider holds all our information about them in one place. They are an essential tool for our staff in monitoring compliance with the essential standards.
Find out more about QRPs and how we use them.
Providers must submit notifications to us when certain events, incidents or changes take place. We use this information to identify risks of non-compliance.
Find out more about Notifications.
Provider compliance assessment (PCA)
During or after an inspection (but not before). our inspectors may ask providers to submit information to us if we need to corroborate the evidence we have gathered. Providers may find it helpful to use our PCA tool to send us this information. The PCA is a also a useful tool for providers to monitor their own quality assurance.
Find out more about the Provider compliance assessment.