Preparing for a CQC Inspection: PART SIX

Provider Information Return (PIR)

The Provider Information Return (PIR) is an annual submission that requires information about your service, any changes made, and how you ensure it's Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive, and Well-Led. CQC contacts the Registered Manager on the anniversary of the first inspection to invite them to complete the PIR, which must be submitted within four weeks.

The PIR helps CQC plan inspections, but its receipt doesn't necessarily mean that an inspection will follow. CQC will use the information provided in the PIR alongside other evidence to decide what follow-up action, if any, is required. The PIR must be informative, accurate, and concise, with each free-text answer limited to 500 words. Adequate preparation before receiving the PIR can help with providing the level of detail expected by CQC.

Try completing the PIR throughout the year when you have made improvements or you've had sucess in delivering outstanding care. Keeping the PIR up to date and gathering evidence to support your answers is much easier when you are not under pressure to submit the PIR in a short time frame. 

CQC Ratings

Care providers are required to prominently display their COC rating in a visible location. They should also provide this information on their website and make the most recent report from COC accessible to clients, their families and the public.

Your Website

To ensure that your website provides accurate and up-to-date information to visitors, it is important to regularly review and update it. Make sure to include information about your CQC registration and the results of your most recent inspection. Additionally, consider including information on any plans you have to improve your service.

It is a legal requirement to display your CQC rating on your website. Failing to do so will result in a rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ as it will be considered a breach of regulations. For more information on this requirement, visit CQC’s website.

Notification of Inspections

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the first sign of a comprehensive inspection from CQC was an email containing a link to a Provider Information Return (PIR). However, CQC now uses information from various sources to determine whether an inspection is needed. Therefore, receiving a PIR does not always indicate an inspection will occur. If an inspection is necessary, CQC may provide little or no notice, depending on the information they hold and any associated risks.

Before an inspection, CQC may request via encrypted email, a list of clients and their contact details, allowing providers to inform CQC which clients would be willing to be visited or contacted during the inspection.

Key Lines of Enquiry

The Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOE) are a guide for inspectors and providers. Not all of the prompts apply to homecare as the KLOEs cover both residential and non-residential services. During inspections, CQC looks for evidence that homecare services are safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well-led.

The New Single Assessment Framework 

In July 2022, CQC announced that it will adopt a more flexible and responsive approach to regulation, which will be supported by a new Single Assessment Framework. This new framework will gradually replace the current Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOE) system.

The implementation of the new Single Assessment Framework is expected to continue throughout 2023. In the meantime, CQC will continue to monitor, assess, and rate providers using its current methods. The Commission has been collaborating with providers to ensure a smooth transition to the new framework.

CQC is improving its monitoring approach by applying lessons learned from the Transitional Monitoring Approach (TMA). Each month, the Commission reviews information on most of the services it regulates. Based on this review, CQC will prioritise any necessary activity.

For lower risk services, CQC will publish a statement on its website to inform providers and the public that there is no evidence suggesting the need to reassess the current rating or quality of care at that service at that time.

CQC will maintain its focus on safety and effective leadership across all regulated services. It will engage in structured conversations with providers, prioritising safety and leadership.

CQC will continue to use existing Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOE) to monitor services and will employ digital methods and local relationships to facilitate direct communication with service users, their families, and staff.

If monitoring activity leads to an inspection, CQC will employ its existing inspection methodologies and Key Lines of Enquiry to ensure the provision of safe and high-quality care. However, inspections will be more targeted, with a focus on areas of risk.

As a result, inspectors may not assess all KLOEs, and inspections may not always result in a change in rating.


Find about Duty of Candour, Safeguarding, Equality & Human Rights and other inspection areas in Part 7, Preparing for a Homecare Inspection. 

If you have any questions about CQC inspections join us in Care Begins at Home, a group created to provide free knowledge and information to care providers and family carers.