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What we will inspect: urgent care services

  • Organisations we regulate

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

Types of inspection


Comprehensive inspections address all five key questions, and ask is the service safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led? We will always carry out a comprehensive inspection of services that we have not yet inspected, or if a service has an overall rating of inadequate or requires improvement.


Focused inspections enable us to follow up any potential changes in the quality of care that our monitoring activity has highlighted. These inspections only focus on certain key questions to explore particular aspects of care.

We will carry out more focused inspections for providers with services rated as good and outstanding overall: this means we will not always consider all five key questions on each inspection.

However, we will always inspect the effective and well-led key questions as a minimum. In some inspections, we may also inspect the safe, caring and/or responsive key questions if the information we have suggests that the quality of care has changed since the previous inspection. When we announce the inspection we will tell you what the focus of the inspection will be.

Focused inspections can change an overall rating at any time, using key question ratings from the focused inspection as well as the remaining key question ratings from the last comprehensive inspection.

In some circumstances, we may carry out a comprehensive inspection of a service rated as good or outstanding. We may do this, for example, where significant concerns arise or there have been significant changes to the quality of care provided.

Follow up

We will inspect when we need to follow up on an area of concern. This could be a concern identified during an inspection that has resulted in enforcement action, or concerns that the public, staff or other stakeholders have raised with us.

These inspections do not usually look at all five key questions. They usually focus only on specific areas indicated by the information that triggers the inspection. Follow up inspections may be unannounced.

Inspecting urgent care in a complex changing landscape

We recognise that many providers of NHS 111, GP out-of-hours and urgent care services are collaborating with other organisations in formal and informal ways to deliver care. We want to make sure that services provide high-quality care, and that leadership and governance at all levels support this. Our strengthened relationship management and monitoring will help us to understand where collaboration is happening and how this will affect what we inspect. We will reflect any collaborative working in your inspection report.

We will continue to work with providers and our partners to understand the new ways in which providers are delivering care so that we can continue to develop a responsive approach.

Inspecting complex providers

We know that NHS 111, GP out-of-hours and urgent care services can be provided by a range of different types of provider from different sectors across the care system, including both NHS trusts and independent providers. We are also aware that some of these providers deliver other types of service across more than one sector. We therefore try to align our inspections to be more efficient and to make the process simpler for you.

For example, some organisations may provide a combination of primary health care services, acute hospital services, mental health care, community health services and ambulance services, and may also run care homes. We will use teams of specialists to inspect each of these services. Also see how we rate services.

We aim to take a consistent approach to inspecting these services. Where NHS 111, GP out-of-hours and other urgent care services are provided directly by NHS trusts, we will follow our approach for inspecting NHS trusts. This is to ensure that we use a consistent inspection approach across the range of services that the trust provides. Our single assessment framework for healthcare services will support a consistent assessment of these services, regardless of who the provider is.

We will work closely with complex providers to tailor how we inspect their urgent care locations. This includes where a provider in the primary care sector is being sub-contracted to deliver urgent care services on behalf of a provider in a different sector. Our Primary Medical Services inspectors will work closely with inspectors across our different directorates, including our Hospitals inspectors, to plan and deliver a coordinated approach to inspection, rating and reporting. We will make clear which inspection approach we are following and will explain our regulatory decisions. Whichever approach we use, our focus will always be on the quality of care for the people using the services.

Last updated:
24 May 2018


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