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What we will inspect: primary care dental services

  • Organisations we regulate,
  • Dental service

By primary care dental services we mean: dental services that are predominantly provided by dentists on the 'high street'.

Within this definition we include providers of domiciliary dental care services and any out-of-hours emergency dental services. There are also community dental services that provide dental treatment for adults and children who cannot be treated in an ordinary general dental practice, as well as specialist dental services provided in a hospital setting. We inspect these services under our approach to inspecting hospitals.

Assessment framework

To direct the focus of inspection, our inspection teams use a set of key lines of enquiry (KLOEs) that directly relate to the five key questions: are services safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led? Each KLOE is accompanied by a number of questions that inspection teams will consider as part of the assessment. We call these prompts. For primary care dental care inspections, we will use CQC’s standard assessment framework for healthcare services.

Our inspection teams will consider the information gathered before the inspection to decide which prompts they will use to help them make a judgement on the KLOEs.

Types of inspection

Information from our monitoring activity helps to determine the type of inspection and what we will look at.


Comprehensive inspections address all five key questions and relevant legal requirements. They ask: is the service safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led? We will carry out comprehensive inspections of 10% of registered locations selected on both a random and risk-based basis.

We will always carry out a comprehensive inspection of services that we have not yet inspected.

Comprehensive inspections will usually be announced, with two weeks’ notice. We feel this is the most appropriate way to make sure that the care you provide to patients is not disrupted. It also enables us to obtain and review the information that you send us before inspection as well as information from patients. However, we may also carry out unannounced or short-notice inspections if we have concerns about a service.


We will carry out a focused inspection when we need to follow up on an area of concern. This could be a concern identified during a comprehensive inspection that has resulted in enforcement action, or concerns that have been raised with us by the public, staff or stakeholders. We may undertake a focused inspection when there is a change in the legal entity of the service provider.

Focused inspections do not usually look at all five key questions. They usually focus only on the areas indicated by the information that triggers the inspection. We may carry out a focused inspection with one of our partners, for example, NHS England.

Planning the inspection

To make the most of the time that we are on site for an inspection, we will analyse data from a range of sources, including information from people who use services, other stakeholders and information that you send to us.

Gathering people's views in advance

In addition to asking partners for information, we will ask you to display information at your practice to publicise the inspection. We will also ask you to tell your patients that we will be inspecting and ask them to share their experiences with us.

Planning meeting with the NHS Area Teams

CQC’s local inspection managers will contact the NHS Area Team(s) to discuss:

  • the scope and purpose of the inspection
  • who will be involved from CQC
  • which practices we propose to inspect
  • how we will carry out the inspections, and our relevant powers
  • how we will communicate our findings from our inspections to the NHS Area Team if we need to discuss any matters arising from the inspection with them

We will then ask the NHS Area Team to provide information about recent contract visits and areas of concern.

Last updated:
17 April 2018


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