The prospect of a care home inspection can feel daunting, but with sufficient knowledge and understanding of what to expect, you can be better prepared to demonstrate the quality of your services.

Every care home in England—from nursing homes to children’s homes to supported living facilities—is required to have an inspection by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) to ensure the home meets fundamental standards of quality and safety. As the independent regulator of health and social care services, the CQC’s main roles and responsibilities are to inspect, monitor and regulate health and adult social care in England, as outlined in our general guide to the CQC.

For care homes, passing a CQC inspection is vital to carrying on operating and providing continuity of care to their residents. The guide below explains how the CQC monitors, inspects and regulates care homes and what actions you can take to meet the standards set—including how to achieve an outstanding CQC report.

In this guide, we cover:

What does the CQC look for when carrying out an inspection?

During a CQC inspection, inspectors will be looking to see if your care home meets their criteria for being safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive to the needs of residents. This can include things like having adequate staffing levels to provide care for the residents, keeping the care home clean and hygienic, involving the resident and their family in care plans, and looking for evidence of competent management.

Following a CQC inspection, the care facility will be given one of four ratings: outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.

What are the different types of CQC inspections?

Care homes can be subject to two types of CQC inspections—comprehensive inspections, which are regular checks, and focused inspections, which are smaller-scale inspections, carried out after a concern is raised either during a comprehensive inspection or monitoring work.

How long do CQC inspections take?

The time necessary to carry out an inspection will depend on the type of inspection taking place and factors such as the size of the care home and the services it provides. The CQC website states that it should take no longer than a day—usually between two and five hours for inspectors to gather the information they need.

How often does the CQC inspect care homes?

Regular checks typically occur at least once every three years. All new care homes must be inspected by the CQC within 6–12 months of opening. If the report shows the care home is providing an inadequate service, another CQC inspection will happen within six months. For a rating of ‘requires improvement’, a further inspection will take place after 12 months, and if rated good or outstanding, it can be as long as five years.

What happens during a CQC inspection?

During a CQC inspection, the inspectors will meet with the care home’s senior team, speak with staff and residents, look at care plans, observe the care being provided, inspect the facility itself, and read documents and policies. They will be reviewing your services and facility against their Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs)—referring to the five different areas that CQC investigates, namely: safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and well-led. You can read about these areas in greater detail in our guide to the CQC, which can help you understand more about what to expect from a CQC inspection.

How can a care home prepare for a CQC inspection?

It is good practice to ensure that your care home is delivering a high level of care at all times. However, there are certain things you can do to help you prepare for a CQC inspection, including:

  • Ensure staff remain familiar with the CQC’s requirements
  • Ensure staff are fully trained and provide evidence of ongoing training
  • Ensure staff have support they need to do the job properly
  • Ensure all equipment is properly maintained
  • Gather examples of good practice in preparation for the inspection

How to get an ‘Outstanding’ CQC inspection status

To get an overall outstanding CQC inspection rating, two of the five KLOEs must be rated outstanding. However, it is important that care homes focus on all five areas, not just two or three.

Having evidence to hand for the inspector is also important, and this should be kept up-to-date. This can include information on policies and procedures, staff training, equipment maintenance records, DBS records and so on.

How long does a CQC inspection report take?

Following a CQC inspection, a draft report will be provided within ten working days. The care home will then have ten working days to check that the report is factually accurate and comment on the CQC’s findings before the report is published.

What is the benefit of passing a CQC care home inspection?

Aside from knowing your care home is meeting the fundamental standards of quality and safety, passing a CQC inspection is important for other reasons. The CQC publishes its findings, including performance ratings, to help people make informed decisions about their care or the care of others, so a good or outstanding rating will reflect well on the services you offer. Similarly, it can help you attract staff who share your care home’s values and are looking for the reassurance of good management.

What happens if a care home fails a CQC inspection?

Receiving a rating of inadequate means the care home is performing badly and the CQC has taken action against the organisation or person who runs it. This could be a fine or even a suspension. Once changes are made, a further inspection must be conducted.

What else should care homes consider?

No matter how well-run your care home is, it is important to take a proactive approach to managing the risks you face in this line of work—particularly your liabilities in the area of patient safety. As well as being a requirement of the CQC, having insurance in place can help protect the organisation, its staff and residents. Gallagher can provide an insurance programme that is tailored to the unique requirements of your care home. Speak to a member of our team or find out more about our care home insurance.

For full information on the CQC, please visit their website.

  • Gallagher Care Team


The sole purpose of this guide is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.