Outstanding Care Home Design: Tips for CQC Inspections

Posted on 13 January 2021 in Care Homes

As we head into 2021, the threat of Coronavirus continues to cause difficult challenges in health and social care. Sadly, care homes have been amongst the hardest hit. Statistics from the ONS show that since March 2020, there have been 20,042  deaths the week ending the 8th January 2021.

The impact of this has seen confidence from families and older people in residential care fall dramatically, posing a huge risk to the viability of many care homes. If care homes cannot fill their beds, they cannot bring in enough revenue to stay open.

So, what can we do to raise confidence in residential care and protect our much-needed care homes?

Many expect the rollout of newly approved vaccinations will help. We were thrilled to see care home residents and staff near the top of the priority list! However, another area that is crucial in rebuilding confidence is achieving/maintaining an Outstanding CQC rating.

After years of designing care home interiors to meet CQC requirements, our specialists have pulled together their top three recommendations to help you achieve an Outstanding rating in your next CQC inspection.


How does a CQC inspection work?

As the independent regulator for health and social care in England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regularly inspect care homes, delivering quality ratings from ‘Inadequate’ to ‘Outstanding’.

These inspections are measured against the following five questions:

  1. Are they safe?
  2. Are they effective?
  3. Are they caring?
  4. Are they responsive to people’s needs?
  5. Are they well-led?

To help you achieve an Outstanding CQC rating against these criteria, interior design is one of the most simple and effective solutions!

1)    Audit furniture for comfort and infection control

To show CQC inspectors that your organisation is well-led, there needs to be clear evidence of leadership providing high quality care that encourages innovation and learning.

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the care homes that we’ve spoken to are doing that by updating their infection control policies.

As part of these updates, we recommend auditing furniture and equipment for infection risks. Care equipment and furniture come into direct contact with residents and staff. So, anything to reduce risk with chairs/beds that can potentially spread viruses is a big advantage.

Here are a few points to look out for:

  • Are there any rips or tears in upholstery?
  • Is there any Velcro that could come into direct contact with the skin?
  • Is furniture easy to wipe down and clean regularly?
  • Are you using infection-control friendly materials?

For more information on how to comply with all strict infection control requirements, check our blog on control tips for care homes.

The interior design element comes into how you choose to replace any furniture that fails your audit.

By choosing products that are infection-control-friendly, comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing, your care home will also be ticking the safe and caring boxes for a CQC inspection.

Infection-Control Equipment for Outstanding Care Home Design

Here are some of our top recommendations:


The Arene Riser Recliner Chair was originally designed for hospices, so it complies with the strictest infection control guidelines. It is now a must-have for care homes too. With a design that can be fully customised, you get maximum infection control without making the home look clinical. Choose colours, fabrics and finishes to suit your overall design scheme.


If you require fixed moving and handling equipment in resident bedrooms, opt for inset Airglide360 tracking  The inset design blends seamlessly into the ceiling. Not only does it stop the room feeling clinical, but it also doesn’t trap dust and dirt.

The Airglide360 tracking is designed for use with our unique AirRise hoist units. Using the latest technology, these units are proven to enhance comfort during transfers and prevent staff injuries.


Bespoke seating areas with dividers can create more private hubs within open social spaces. Whilst care homes are still dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, this kind of design can be easily adapted with screens to support social distancing measures. Speak to our care home design consultants to learn more about bespoke options.

2)    Always Prioritise Person-Centred Care

To ensure that your services are responsive to individual needs and deliver care that provides dignity and respect, space is one of the key design elements to consider.

Space acts as a base for an entire care environment. So, to create Outstanding design you need to incorporate three types of space into every room:

  • Space for movement — free space without any furniture or equipment.
  • Space for access — entrances and walkways must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walking aids.
  • Space to ensure that residents don’t feel restricted — consider spacing between items of furniture and what is in a residents eyeline when sitting.

In any room, thinking through these elements of space is the first step to creating a room that meets residents’ needs.

For private bedrooms, we’d recommend working with each individual to tailor the layout to suit them. It will help them feel more comfortable in their own room.

Plus, involving residents in decisions is something CQC inspectors look for across all five assessment criteria.

Effective use of space also enhances safety. Rearranging layouts to maximise space can help to prevent falls and reduce your ambulance callouts. With confidence in care homes falling due to COVID-19, demonstrating the steps you have taken to avoid hospital admissions is key to attracting new residents in 2021.

Don’t forget the bathrooms

Relatives – who are often the key decision makers when choosing a care home — also need to see a proactive approach in delivering facilities. They expect care homes to not only protect their loved ones, but also ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.

In the property industry, poorly designed bathrooms are one of the biggest turn-offs for potential buyers. The same is true for prospective care home residents and CQC inspectors looking for Outstanding facilities.

En-suite bathrooms are probably the best example of a ‘must-have’ facility from a relative’s point of view. It is expected that each resident will have their own space for personal care.

COVID-19 has further increased this preference for private en-suites. For most people, the thought of shared toilet and hygiene facilities will now be a deal breaker.


3)     Think Carefully About the Overall Design

Good interior design plays such an important role in improving the happiness and wellbeing of every resident in every care home. It is also one of the most effective methods in meeting safety regulations and achieving good outcomes.

However, to successfully create an Outstanding design you must carefully consider every component that makes up your care home design.

We’ve already spoken about space in some detail. But, in total, there are 7 Principles of Interior Design for Care Homes.  To obtain an Outstanding CQC rating you will need to incorporate them all:

  • Space
  • Line
  • Form
  • Light
  • Colour
  • Texture
  • Pattern

Lines are one of those key principles that is especially important in delivering an effective care environment. They act as visual guides giving residents something to rely on when moving around the home.

For example, installing horizontal grab rails, wall panels, and photographs in corridors can all create lines that emphasise the doorways. This is especially helpful for residents with visual impairments or dementia who struggle with wayfinding.

If you would like more information on our ‘7 Principles of Interior Design to Care Homes’, check out our free eBook on how care homes can recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s a whole chapter on interior design.



2020 has inflicted huge pressure on the sustainability of the residential care sector. However, with our ageing population continuing to grow, quality care homes are needed more than ever before. So, it is vital that they can restore the confidence of older people and their families.

Achieving an Outstanding CQC rating is one of the most effective methods to do that, with interior design playing an important role in ensuring a care home meets each level of criteria. To ensure your care home reaches/maintains those standards, our experts can work with you to make and necessary improvements and enable you to stand out from your competitors.

Our mission is to enhance the quality of people’s lives, making your care home an enjoyable and safe place for residents, staff, and visitors alike.

Register for a Free CPD

Want to learn more about how interior design can help your care home achieve an Outstanding CQC rating? Book a free InnovaLive training session!

Our consultants can guide you through the key interior design principles as well as sharing ideas for furniture, room layouts, and design innovations to meet CQC inspection criteria.

The ‘Creating Design-Led Care Environments’ CPD event can be carried out virtually (via Zoom) or in-person (when safe to do so). Just book online to arrange a free session for you and your team.

Other blogs you may be interested in

Bed Fall Solutions

Interior Design for Care Homes

Healthcare Interior Design Tips: Balancing clinical requirements & style

How does hospice care at home work?

Can we help with anything?

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