Scope of registration: Who has to register?

Page last updated: 22 February 2024


  1. Introduction
  2. Who has to register?
  3. General exceptions and exemptions from registration
  4. The regulated activities
  5. Glossary of terms

Who has to register?

This section contains:


'Service providers' must register with CQC. A service provider can be:

  • an individual
  • a partnership
  • an organisation (for example, companies, charities, NHS trusts and local authorities).

We register the regulated activity that will be carried on – not service types or professions. To decide whether you need to register, it is important to determine what regulated activity will be carried on, and who is responsible for it.

It is the legal entity carrying on the regulated activity that must register – not the location or care setting where it is carried out. See guidance about locations.

What is a regulated activity?

Section 8(1) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 describes a regulated activity as “an activity involving, or connected with, the provision of health or social care”.

The activities listed in Schedule 1 of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 are the regulated activities specified for the purposes of the Act.

If you carry on any of the regulated activities specified in Schedule 1 in England, you must register unless an exception or exemption applies.

There are separate arrangements for regulating health and social care in other UK countries. CQC does not normally regulate providers based outside England that offer care and treatment to patients in England. If you are registered in England and you also intend to provide a service to people living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we strongly advise you to contact the respective regulatory authority for that country to check whether you also need to register with them.

If a health or care service provider from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland occasionally delivers services in England (for example, an ambulance service), we will take a proportionate and reasonable approach to whether they should also be registered with us.

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Types of service provider or legal entity

There are many different types of service provider. A service provider is the legal entity who is carrying on the regulated activity. The following are some examples of the main types of service provider.


If you will be carrying on the regulated activity by yourself (sometimes referred to as a ‘sole trader’) you need to register as an individual. Individuals register in their own name as a legal entity and are directly responsible for carrying on the regulated activity or activities.


You need to register as an organisation if you intend to carry on regulated activity and are a:

  • local authority
  • NHS trust
  • registered company or charity
  • limited liability partnership (LLP)
  • other corporate body.

It is the organisation itself that registers – not the people who control it. However, Regulation 5 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 requires organisations to satisfy themselves that their directors (or those individuals who perform similar functions) are fit and proper persons.


Where an activity is carried on by a partnership, the partnership needs to be registered as the service provider. We do not register each partner individually, but we place a condition on the partnership registration that details the names of each partner.

If there are any changes to the membership of the registered partnership, the provider needs to apply to vary that condition. Providers that registered as a partnership before 4 February 2013 did not have this condition, but we will add the condition to their registration if they apply to add or remove a partner or make another change to their registration details.

Corporate groups

Where a health or care provider is a subsidiary of a bigger parent company and is the legal entity responsible for the service it will need to register in its own right, rather than the parent company. For example, if several provider companies all trade under the same brand, each company that carries on regulated activities must register individually. We will manage our relationship across the parent corporate brand and our published assessments will distinguish clearly between the registered provider and the brand.


Franchise holders are usually separate legal entities to the parent company and must register in their own right. When we publish our assessments, we will distinguish clearly between the registered provider and the brand. We will liaise with the parent company as necessary.

Joint ventures

Where an activity is provided as a joint venture between two providers, the venture will often be a corporate entity in its own right and therefore must register. Where the joint nature of the venture is reflected in contracts or agreements rather than in how it is organised, each party may need to register depending on the individual case.

Primary care at scale

A growing number of primary care services are now working more collaboratively. GP practices are working more ‘at scale’ as part of a federation or a larger primary care network with community health and other primary care teams and services. Collaborative working arrangements also include single provider ‘super practices’ covering multiple sites. Regardless of whether arrangements are formal or informal, it is important for providers to clearly identify the legal entity responsible for carrying on the regulated activities.

Section 75 agreements

Section 75 agreements enable NHS bodies and local authorities to:

  • establish joint funding
  • delegate functions
  • integrate resources and management structures, such as integrated community mental health care.

These agreements do not usually constitute a new, separate legal partnership and each body that provides a regulated activity must be registered for it separately. Generally, the body that has the original statutory obligation or power to provide the service is the one that should register for it, as it retains accountability for the service.

Services registered with Ofsted

Ofsted is responsible for regulating establishments and agencies that provide children’s social care services. Services regulated by Ofsted are described on the Ofsted pages of the GOV.UK website.

CQC cannot regulate the accommodation element of any establishment or agency registered with Ofsted in England. However, if health care is also being offered, the provider will need to register with CQC separately for the health care element.

The Government guidance on Children’s homes and health care: registration with Ofsted or CQC explains which regulated activities offered by children’s homes are likely to need to register with CQC.

Services that provide the regulated activity of Personal care to children outside of an establishment or agency that is registered by Ofsted need to register with CQC. For example, a domiciliary or homecare agency may provide personal care to a child in their own home.

The same regulated activities cannot be dual registered with both the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted. Where a provider must register with Ofsted, the parts of its service that Ofsted regulates will be exempt from registration with CQC. This means the provider does not need to register the same regulated activity with CQC. A provider can still be registered with both regulators, but it cannot be accountable for the same activity (called double accountability). For example, a provider may be registered with Ofsted for activity A and be registered with CQC for activity B. Sometimes, activities A and B may be closely related, or take place in the same location.

We cooperate with Ofsted under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding. We work together to share expertise and coordinate activity. This allows each regulator to monitor the different areas while avoiding duplication and overlap. See How we inspect children’s services.

Hosting arrangements

Hosting is where one provider makes facilities available to another provider to enable it to carry on a regulated activity. In some cases, this may also include support staff such as reception, catering, and housekeeping.

It is the provider that carries on the regulated activity that needs to register – not the host.

In these situations, we advise hosts to set out the extent of their role in formal agreements with the service provider (for example, through a contract or service level agreement). If the responsibilities of each provider are unclear, hosts may sometimes end up being held responsible for activities taking place in premises that are under their control, if nobody else is responsible for them.

Renting arrangements

In the same way, if a provider rents out its facilities to another provider, that other provider will need to register in its own right if it provides a regulated activity.

Practising privileges

Practising privileges are a well-established system of checks and agreements to enable doctors to practise in hospitals without being directly employed by them. Doctors sometimes rent consulting rooms to conduct private outpatient appointments in independent hospitals and in private facilities within an NHS hospital. Where these doctors provide a consultation in a service that is managed by the hospital, and the doctors have agreed practising privileges, the consultation may be covered by the hospital’s registration.

Practising privileges are different to normal renting and sub-contracting arrangements because they have a specific exemption in the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. For this exemption to apply, all aspects of a consultation must be carried out under the hospital’s management and policies. For example, the consultation must meet the hospital’s requirements for clinical governance and audit, and follow its policies and systems for complaints and for record-keeping (with the hospital owning the records). It means that the hospital retains responsibility for ensuring that all regulations and relevant requirements are met. The hospital can do this by granting practising privileges.

Doctors (or other healthcare professionals) can also sometimes practise in outpatient departments under their own arrangements, with the hospital only acting as landlord. Where this happens, and the doctor or other healthcare professional is carrying on regulated activities independently of the hospital, they must register as this does not amount to the exercise of practising privileges, unless they are exempt for other reasons (see general exceptions and exemptions).

Landlords should clearly set out the extent of their role in agreements with the service provider (for example, through a contract, service level agreement or practising privileges). If the extent of responsibilities is left unclear, landlords may sometimes end up being held responsible for activities taking place in premises that are under their control, if nobody else is responsible for them.

Subcontracted services

If a subcontractor provides treatment or care services that include a regulated activity, they will usually need to register in their own right. This will always depend on the nature of the subcontracting arrangement. But if a subcontractor does not provide treatment or care directly, such as providing equipment or support services that do not include providing a regulated activity (for example, catering or cleaning) they will not need to register.

Generally, a subcontractor with a contract to supply part of a wider and more comprehensive service should register for any regulated activity they carry on if they retain any responsibility for delivering the service (such as the operational policies and protocols, day-to-day operational or staff management, clinical governance or quality assurance).

The provider that sub-contracts the work makes a commercial decision on who is responsible for delivering the regulated activity or activities. Commercially, the legal accountability for the quality of care remains the responsibility of both the provider and the sub-contractor. However, for registration under the Health and Social Care Act 2008, CQC will hold accountable the legal entity that is directly responsible for carrying on the regulated activity.

Secondments and similar service level agreements

In some cases, a service provider uses staff from another organisation who are 'loaned' to it, through a secondment or similar agreement, for a certain proportion of their time.

In some cases, an NHS trust (A) may second its staff to a separate service (B) that is funded and facilitated by a charity, while retaining responsibility for the clinical services provided. Sometimes B may reimburse A for the cost of the staff. In these cases the requirement to register will depend on the detail in the contractual arrangements. This should identify which provider is actually responsible for the treatment being provided. An example of this might be an air ambulance service.

Whether we are considering a secondment, a hosting arrangement or any other way of organising a service, our general principle is to identify who is responsible for the safety and quality of care or treatment. We do this by finding out:

  • who has clinical responsibility?
  • who would need to handle complaints?
  • whose quality assurance or clinical governance system covers the activity?

The line of accountability will usually tell us who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations, and therefore who needs to register.

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Do I need to register a manager?

A manager is a person who is in day-to-day charge of delivering a service provider's regulated activity, or a service provider's regulated activity in a particular location. The Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009 set out the circumstances in which a service must have a registered manager as a condition of its registration. These are:

  • Any service provider that is an organisation – whether corporate (for example, a company) or unincorporated (for example, a partnership or a charity) – must have a registered manager for every regulated activity that it carries on, unless it is a health service body. Health service bodies such as English NHS trusts do not need to have a registered manager unless we impose a condition on their registration that requires one. Others – including independent organisations that work under contract to the NHS – must always have a registered manager.
  • If the service provider is an individual, they do not need to have a registered manager unless they are not a fit person to manage the regulated activity, or they do not intend to be in day-to-day charge of how the regulated activity is provided. See what we mean by ‘fitness’.

When we register NHS trusts that have a care home and provide the regulated activity of Accommodation for persons who require nursing or personal care, we will use our discretion and may impose a condition to have a registered manager. This is because we consider the role of a manager who is in day-to-day charge of these services to be fundamental to providing positive outcomes for people who use the service.

To assess whether an individual is a fit person to manage the regulated activity, we consider whether they are:

  • of good character
  • physically and mentally able to manage the activity (taking into account any reasonable adjustments or plans that may support them to undertake the role)
  • able to demonstrate that they have the necessary qualifications, competence, skills and experience to manage how the regulated activity is carried on
  • able to provide the following required information:
    • proof of identity
    • enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check with barred list information
    • employment history including evidence of conduct (such as references) and reason for leaving, where the work involved children or vulnerable adults
    • records of qualifications
    • evidence of health (such as a medical reference).

Registered managers can be registered for more than one regulated activity. They can also be responsible for more than one location if they can provide evidence that they are able to do this effectively.

Further information:

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General exceptions and exemptions from registration

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Scope of Registration (pdf, 2.24MB, English)