Care Quality Commission Logo

The Care Quality Commission checks whether hospitals, care homes and care services are meeting government standards. Visit our website at

Controlled drugs

This section provides information about our role and the legal responsibilities of healthcare providers that handle controlled drugs.

You can also download the Self assessment tools for primary care providers/commissioners and acute NHS trusts or independent hospitals.

Our work to oversee the safer management of controlled drugs

Our work involves:

  • providing external scrutiny on how other regulators and agencies work together following the Government's response on the management of controlled drugs after the fourth report of the Shipman inquiry.
  • leading a national group of the regulators and agencies involved in different aspects of the management and use of controlled drugs, to look at national trends in their use.
  • reporting to Government on how partner organisations work together.
  • assessing and overseeing how health and social care providers manage controlled drugs.
  • taking part in local intelligence networks led by primary care trusts. These networks bring together organisations from the NHS and independent health, and other responsible bodies, regulators and agencies including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, NHS counter fraud and security management services and police services.

Self assessment tools

Tools for primary care

These are currently under review.

Tool for secondary care NHS trusts

This self-assessment tool is intended for secondary care NHS trusts and acute NHS foundation trusts. It is a resource designed to help them assess their performance in controlled drugs governance in order to identify any gaps and drive improvement.

Although this tool is aimed at secondary care NHS trusts, large acute independent hospitals may also find it useful in assessing their controlled drugs responsibilities. They are therefore encouraged to use the tool and apply it to the areas that are relevant to the circumstances of their organisation.

This tool is currently under review.

Please note: each tool is in Excel spreadsheet format and contains macros. When you download it, please remember to select "enable macros" to ensure that the scoring facility works.

Annual reports

Findings from 2012

Our latest annual report on the safe management of controlled drugs covers our key findings and recommendations from 2012.

Our key findings from 2012 are listed below.

  • The total number of controlled drugs items prescribed in NHS primary care was 47,308,286 (an increase of 1 per cent compared with 2011).
  • The use of temazepam (sleeping agent) has continued to fall steadily since 2007.
  • Since 2007, there have been increases in prescribing of buprenorphine, morphine sulphate, oxycodone, fentanyl, methylphenidate, midazolam and diamorphine.
  • Private prescribing of controlled drugs decreased by 10 per cent in 2012.

The following five recommendations have been made.

  1. Health and social care professionals must ensure they know how to contact their local controlled drugs accountable officer (CDAO) and know the mechanism for reporting controlled drug concerns.
  2. CDAOs need to ensure they are following our guidance to update contact details promptly to ensure the CDAO register is accurate.
  3. Effective systems developed at the local level for secure gathering, sharing and recording of intelligence should be preserved and transferred into the new NHS structure.
  4. CDAOs, clinical commissioning groups and controlled drugs leads must be mindful of their continuing responsibilities for good governance and safe use of controlled drugs to ensure on-going monitoring and vigilance.
  5. Looking forward to 2013, we must incorporate providers’ governance arrangements for controlled drugs into its inspection model for primary medical services.

Find out more

Read our press release on the safer management of controlled drugs in 2012: Report warns of need for continued vigilance and monitoring of controlled drugs.

We've co-developed a set of supporting information with NHS England for health care professionals that handle controlled drugs. Read more in Use of controlled drugs

Previous reports

If you want to find out more about our work on the safer management of controlled drugs, you can read our annual reports from previous years.