Skills for Care

CQC assessment: first impressions and tools to help

13 Mar 2024

3 min read

Rob Hargreaves

  • CQC
  • Management
  • Leadership

Rob Hargreaves, Information Services Manager, Skills for Care shares initial feedback from some of the first assessments and what can help providers to be ready

After a long development period, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Single Assessment Framework has now been rapidly rolled out across the country. Over the months to come thousands of regulated adult social care providers will experience this process for the first time, so what is the emerging insight?


What are we hearing?

Feedback to Skills for Care implies that many providers have been caught off guard by how limited the CQC have been in what they focused on.

Whilst the CQC has talked a lot about their 34 new Quality Statements in the build up to release, the initial assessments have only focused on a very small number. This has been good news for providers seeking an efficient assessment process, but disappointing to those hoping that a wider assessment focus might enable them to achieve a higher rating.

Assessments so far have largely focused on a small number of 'Safe' related Quality Statements, as well as one Quality Statement each in 'Caring' and 'Responsive'. For many, the assessments have covered safeguarding, safe staffing, managing risk, independence and equity. However, the CQC assessors have it within their gift to look at any Quality Statement and services currently falling below the standards should expect any related Quality Statement to be looked at.

With the CQC no longer needing to cross the threshold of a service to rate, the assessments so far have been a mixture of visits or gathering evidence via other methods including phone and Teams calls. Some services have been given a few weeks’ notice of assessment, others a few days, but the CQC retains the option to assess without any advance notice.


Risk remains a priority, but it's not the only factor

The CQC continues to risk assess the need to visit or call, so those rated 'Requires improvement' and 'Inadequate' continue to be currently prioritised over those the CQC believe continue to meet their standards. However, the CQC will be using the Single Assessment Framework to rate all services going forward, they're just not committing to a timescale yet.

The CQC also recognises that newer services need to be inspected and rated for the first time and they retain the ambition to do this within a year of these services becoming operational. Whether these are scored and rated at once or gradually as evidence builds is yet to be clarified.


Be prepared to share

Whilst assessor interviews will be a central part of gathering evidence, the CQC will expect you to share a range of documents usually in advance of the assessment. Where relevant to the CQC request, you may want to share related evidence both before the visit / call, but also in direct response to the conversations you have with the CQC.

Some of the documents the CQC have asked to view in assessment go beyond the examples they include in their online guidance, so the indication is the CQC list is only an example of what they might be interested in reviewing.


A responsive approach

A number of providers who've been through the new assessment have been very complementary of how responsive the CQC assessors have been, providing more opportunities to discuss issues and share additional evidence.

Interviews with other team members, people you support and their families, and healthcare professionals have either been done as part of a visit, or after initial discussions with managers and leaders. These follow up interviews are often undertaken by different CQC representatives, not necessarily the assessor who interviewed the manager.

Scoring is determined after a review of all evidence gathered and subject to wider CQC quality assurance processes, so the feedback meeting will often not tell you of the outcome or impact on your rating. However, it should provide some indication of what the assessor has found.


Tools to support your assessment

As with the previous inspection process, even good services remain at risk of not meeting CQC standards if they can't successfully evidence the quality of care they provide.

From the services who we've spoken to who've had a positive experience with the new assessment process, there's a common theme: they had looked at the Single Assessment Framework and felt prepared.

To support you to be ready to evidence that you meet or exceed CQC expectations, Skills for Care has produced a range of products shaped around the Single Assessment Framework/

GO Online: Inspection toolkit

This is a free online tool providing access to insight, recommendations, examples and resources to meet each of the 34 Quality Statements.

GO Guide: Single Assessment Framework version

This 300-page guide provides an in depth look at the process and what steps to take to prepare your service. Available now as a free PDF to all our Registered Manager Members and as a printed publication to purchase on our Bookshop from 15 April.

eLearning modules

To help summarise the key changes and some of the holistic ways to be ready for assessment, Skills for Care has updated our series of 1-hour eLearning modules. These are primarily aimed at those within adult social care providers learning about CQC assessment for the first time.


For a more in-depth look at the changes, Skills for Care’s Being prepared for CQC inspection seminar provides a safe space for managers to come together to learn. This one-day interactive seminar is complemented by learning materials and a toolkit that can be used to help drive forward these changes. We're periodically running this seminar over the coming months, but providers can directly commission too.


Find out more on our Good and Outstanding webpage.

Find further information and resources for registered managers with our #ChampioningRMs spotlight.

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