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25th July 2016

Countdown to New Care Standards in Scotland

The National Care Standards in Scotland are a set of indicators for the quality of regulated care services. They were devised and introduced in 2001 after extensive consultation with service users, carers, and services themselves.

Each of the types of care services at present have their own set of applicable standards. All are based on common principles which express people's rights and expectations when receiving a care service. They are written in second person voice, e.g. "You can expect... You will receive..." The main principles underlying the present National Care Standards are: dignity, privacy, choice, safety, realising potential and equality and diversity.

The Standards are used by service users and their carers in choosing and evaluating the service they receive. Services themselves work to these standards in developing and improving the quality of the service provided. Also the Care Inspectorate uses these standards as the basis of the inspection of the quality of services which they inspect, register and regulate.

The review process

Because the standards have been used since 2001, the Scottish Government is in the process of introducing new standards to replace them. There are four stages of this introduction:

  1. Initial consultation;
  2. Agreeing principles;
  3. Writing and sending out draft Standards for consultation;
  4. And finally, rolling out the new standards for the care services and the public.

We are at stage 3 of this process at present: the principles have been agreed by the government after extensive consultation, and the draft standards are being written for sending out for final consultation this Autumn. The final stage will be the approval and release of the new standards from April 2017.

Principles of the new standards

A specific website is now available to inform people about progress being made. This is at and it issues regular bulletins and information on progress. The site lists the principles agreed after consultation as:

Fuller details of each principle uses first person, present tense language, e.g. "I will receive the right information... I am involved in wider decisions..." I think this is a significant shift in the use of language, reflecting an increased commitment to encouraging person-centred care.

A notable change is that the new standards will be fundamentally based on people's rights.

What will they look like?

Being based on people's rights, the principles above show a commitment to ownership and inclusion by people who use the service and their carers. The general standards will cover all types of care services with some variation for e.g. early years and agency based services. The Care Inspectorate and Health Improvement Scotland will apply these standards in their regulatory and scrutiny work. These bodies are currently reviewing their inspection methodologies, and the new standards will assist in, and influence that process.

The project team writing the standards are carrying out ongoing consultation, and have devised a set of headings to ensure that the person centred over-arching principles are fully reflected in the general standards. These headings are:

  • I experience high quality support and care
  • I am at the heart of decisions about my support and care
  • I am confident in the people who support and care for me
  • I am confident in the organisation
  • I am part of the community
  • I am in the right place

How should services prepare for the new standards?

First, don't panic! If your quality grades from inspection are good, then the new standards should reinforce that. It would help to survey service users, staff and stakeholders about how well the new principles are evident in your service, taking into account the above proposed headings also. I think an action plan based on this consultation will help the forthcoming final consultation, and ease the transition for services to the new systems beginning from April 2017.

I think it is helpful to keep up to date with the website above, and its bulletins: and involving your inspector and/or your contact manager (if your organisation has one) will also help. Since rights are the new agenda, then the use of advocacy and equality and diversity policies and procedures will be increasingly important areas to look at.

We see the new system as promising even higher quality of care across the country and will keep you informed as new developments come along.


Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services. Read more

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