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Health watchdogs and authorities

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

CQC logo

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator for health and social care in England.

It makes sure services such as hospitals, care homes, dentists and GP surgeries provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care, and encourages these services to improve.

The CQC monitors and inspects these services, and then publishes its findings and ratings to help people make choices about their care.

Watch the CQC video, About us and what we do, to learn more.

How the CQC does its job

The CQC carries out its role in the following ways:

  • Making sure services meet fundamental standards of quality and safety that people have a right to expect whenever they receive care.
  • Registering care service providers that are able to show they will meet these standards.
  • Monitoring, inspecting and regulating care services to make sure they continue to meet the standards.
  • Protecting the rights of vulnerable people, including those whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.
  • Listening to and acting on your experiences.
  • Involving people who use services.
  • Working in partnership with other organisations and local groups.
  • Challenging all providers, with the worst performers getting the most attention.
  • Making fair and authoritative judgements supported by the best information and evidence.
  • Taking appropriate action if care services are failing to meet the fundamental standards.
  • Carrying out in-depth reviews to look at care across the system.
  • Reporting on the quality of care, including ratings to help people choose services.

CQC inspections and ratings

CQC inspection teams are made up of clinical and other experts, as well as people with direct experience of the relevant type of care. The teams visit services, speak to staff and patients, and observe the care provided.

Each service is assessed against five key questions:

  • Is it safe?
  • Is it effective?
  • Is it caring?
  • Is it responsive to people's needs?
  • Is it well led?

A detailed definition for each question can be found on the CQC website. 

Based on the outcome of the inspection, CQC gives an overall rating as well as one for each of the key questions. Further ratings for core services (such as surgery or maternity in hospitals) or population groups (such as people with long-term conditions in GP services) can also be awarded.

There are four levels of rating:

  • outstanding – the service is performing exceptionally well
  • good – the service is performing well and meets CQC's expectations
  • requires improvement – the service isn't performing as well as it should and CQC has told the service how it should improve
  • inadequate – the service is performing badly and CQC has taken action against the person or organisation that runs it

A full inspection report and all ratings for a service are published on the CQC website to help you make better decisions about the care you receive.

Services found to provide inadequate care may be placed in special measures until they can improve the quality of their care. Read CQC's guide to special measures.

All NHS trusts placed in special measures also have to publish their monthly action reports on NHS Choices. Find the latest action reports.

CQC ratings on NHS Choices

Example of an overall results page On this site you can view the overall rating a service received from CQC on its most recent inspection.

We show CQC ratings for hospitals, including mental health hospitals, care homes and home care services.

To view the score, select the service using Find services and perform a postcode search.

The scores are displayed either on the overall results page or the overview page of a service provider's profile.

Example of CQC results on the overview page of hospital profile

Note: CQC's new ratings system was introduced in October 2014. Any services that haven't been inspected under this model will still display information from the old system on this website.

This system used ticks and crosses instead of "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement" and "inadequate" ratings. Some services have no rating. This could be because a new-style inspection is yet to be carried out or because it has been temporarily suspended. On this website, these services display as "no rating".

CQC ratings before October 2014

Example tick icongreen tick – assessed as meeting all CQC standards


Example exclamation mark iconexclamation mark – not meeting all CQC standards


Example exclamation mark iconexclamation mark – enforcement action being taken


Page last reviewed: 20/10/2015

Next review due: 20/10/2017

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