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Care standards – what to expect

When you're looking for a particular care service or residential home for a friend or loved one, it is reassuring to know that organisations that provide care must meet standards required by law. 

The care you receive in a hospital, in a care home, from an agency in your own home, at the dentist, in a GP practice and elsewhere must meet standards legally.

The information on this page tells you what standards you should expect, and what you can do if you are worried about the quality of the care that the person you look after is receiving.  

We are working with the Care Quality Commission to ensure carers' feedback is used to raise or maintain good quality standards no matter what type of care service is being delivered. Read more

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the regulator that monitors and inspects all organisations providing care to ensure standards are being met in England. All NHS and social care providers have to be registered with CQC and they have to conform to a set of standards. These standards can be found on the CQC website

Note: the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspects care services in England only. To find out who the health care regulator is in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland please click the relevant link below: 

Checklist of care standards

The points below are a summary of the 'fundamental standards'  the standards below which your care must never fall. These are the standards everybody has a right to expect when they receive care. They are written from the perspective of the person receiving the care and can be used as a checklist.

Person-centred care 
You must have care or treatment that is tailored to you and meets your needs and preferences. 

Dignity and respect 
You must be treated with dignity and respect at all times while you're receiving care and treatment. 
This includes making sure: 

  • you have privacy when you need and want it 
  • everybody is treated as equals 
  • you're given any support you need to help you remain independent and involved in your local community. 

You (or anybody legally acting on your behalf) must give your consent before any care or treatment is given to you. 

You must not be given unsafe care or treatment or be put at risk of harm that could be avoided. Providers must assess the risks to your health and safety during any care or treatment and make sure their staff have the qualifications, competence, skills and experience to keep you safe. 

Safeguarding from abuse 
You must not suffer any form of abuse or improper treatment while receiving care. 
This includes: 

  • neglect 
  • degrading treatment 
  • unnecessary or disproportionate restraint 
  • inappropriate limits on your freedom. 

Food and drink 
You must have enough to eat and drink to keep you in good health while you receive care and treatment. 

Premises and equipment 
The places where you receive care and treatment and the equipment used in it must be clean, suitable and looked after properly. The equipment used in your care and treatment must also be secure and used properly. 

You must be able to complain about your care and treatment. The provider of your care must have a system in place so they can handle and respond to your complaint. They must investigate it thoroughly and take action if problems are identified. 

Good governance 
The provider of your care must have plans that ensure they can meet these standards. They must have effective governance and systems to check on the quality and safety of care. These must help the service improve and reduce any risks to your health, safety and welfare. 

The provider of your care must have enough suitably qualified, competent and experienced staff to make sure they can meet these standards. 
Their staff must be given the support, training and supervision they need to help them do their job. 

Fit and proper staff 
The provider of your care must only employ people who can provide care and treatment appropriate to their role. They must have strong recruitment procedures in place and carry out relevant checks such as on applicants' criminal records and work history. 

Duty of candour 
The provider of your care must be open and transparent with you about your care and treatment. Should something go wrong, they must tell you what has happened, provide support and apologise. 

Display of ratings 
The provider of your care must display their CQC rating in a place where you can see it. They must also include this information on their website and make our latest report on their service available to you. 


If you, or someone you care for, experiences poor care you can do both of the following: 

  • raise your concerns with the service, including making a formal complaint (see details below for care agency/care home/independent living setting or an NHS setting) 
  • tell the Care Quality Commission about the matter.


If you are unhappy with the quality of the care that you or the person you care for are receiving, the first thing you need to do is directly contact the organisation providing the care to ask them to address your concern. 

  • Make a note of what your concern is (with as many specific details as possible), the time of the call and who you spoke to. If your concerns aren't dealt with, you can go through the complaints procedure for the organisation. Each organisation should be able to give you clear information about this process. 

  • If your formal complaint to the care provider is not upheld, then the options available to you going forward will depend on who is arranging or funding your care. 

    Funded by local authority 
  • If your care has been arranged or funded by the local authority (even if the provider is from the private sector), then you are entitled to take your complaint to the local authority. If your complaint does not get resolved at this stage, the next step would be to contact the local government ombudsman. 

    If you are a self-funder 
  • If you are a self-funder and your care has not been arranged through the local authority, then you still have the right to take your complaint to the local government ombudsman if it has not been possible to resolve it directly with the provider. However, you would not complain to the local authority in this circumstance. 


If you are concerned about the quality of the care that is provided by the NHS, then you need to raise it with your provider.  

For example, if this is a GP practice you need to raise your concern with the practice. The receptionist will help you to understand how this works and some practices have online feedback forms. If this is a hospital, then you can you can raise your concerns with the hospital directly and ask for a response.

Make a note of what your concern is (with as many specific details as possible), the time of the call and who you spoke to. If your concerns aren’t dealt with, you can make a formal complaint through the NHS’s formal complaints procedure. Every NHS provider will have a complaints procedure and information about it can be provided upon request.  

If a complaint is not upheld, the next step would be to contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.


CQC and Carers UK – provide feedback on your experiences of care

Carers UK is working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to encourage you as a carer to provide feedback on any care services you have recently used.


Whether good or bad, providing feedback helps services to understand what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to health and social care. This enables services to make necessary changes to ensure the delivery of good care, or to replicate best practice across other services.

If the experience is negative, it also enables you to raise concerns about the care a loved one has received or is receiving from a care organisation if you are concerned that it is not meeting standards of quality and safety.


When the CQC find that a service is not meeting required standards of quality and safety, they will take action to ensure care improves.

You can tell the CQC about concerns even when you do not want to make a complaint to the service.

Providing feedback on a health and care service that you, or the person you care for, have recently experienced is particularly important given the impact COVID-19 has had on services carers rely upon.

The CQC’s role as regulator means that they do not settle individual complaints, but they still want you to tell them about your experiences of care. Your information is valuable to the CQC as it helps them decide when, where and what to inspect.

How to provide feedback

You can provide good feedback or raise any concerns about health or care services that you or the person you care for have received with the CQC in the following ways:


Phone: 03000 616161


Carers UK and the CQC have produced a leaflet which outlines the standards you can expect and how to raise concerns if these are not being met. The leaflet includes a reply-paid form which can be completed and posted to the CQC free of charge.

If you are a local carers' group or organisation, you could order free copies of these leaflets to distribute to people in your area.



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Residential care options

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