The 10 most important attributes of a good care home

15th Oct 2013

John Kennedy lists his top ten attributes for good care homes.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)’s focus on making care personal is good news, says John Kennedy, as he lists his top ten attributes for good care homes.

I’ve been listening to Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC’s new Head of Social Care Inspection, on BBC Radio 4. I find myself strangely comforted and optimistic. Despite the recent pressures on CQC, from the media and politicians, there does appear to be a genuine intention to listen and to see the world of social care through a much wider lens than has been recent history.

Andrea is quoted as saying: “It’s about people’s whole lives, so we do need to be making it human, making it personal.”

I couldn’t agree more. I would only implore that the ‘human’ reference is universal and includes the humans working in social care too!

Just as the regulator cannot be held completely responsible for the quality of care homes, neither is it helpful to make the other assertion that the quality of care is entirely the responsibility of the care home – a complex, emotive and trust-dependent operation like a care home cannot work in isolation. If Andrea Sutcliffe and CQC are going to succeed in making things better they are going to have to hold to account not just care homes but the Department of Health, DWP and last but not least us.

As part of my Care Home Inquiry, I’ve put together a list of the top ten attributes of a good care home. Please let me know what you think of them:

Values must be held at the top

The culture is crucial. The views of the chief executive, expressed privately behind their office door, must reflect the fundamentals of integrity, honesty, mutual respect and humanity in relation to the management of their business.

Qualities of the manager

Managers need to:

  • be confident, empathetic, energetic, capable and kind;
  • lead bravely and understand their own accountability and their staff’s;
  • know when to ask for help, and be fully supported; practically and emotionally.

Staff must be supported

Staff in a good care home are its heart and model its values. They must be respected, supported, well treated and valued. Their emotional as well as employment needs should be recognised and understood. They must be fairly paid – at least the Living Wage.

Clarity of purpose

Good care homes manage risk, regulation and paperwork in an adult way and focus on relationships and people. They never allow the ‘system’ and ‘bureaucracy’ to become their main purpose.

A community of people

Good care homes try not to refer to ‘the residents’ as there is no such homogeneous group. There is no such thing as a ‘good 42-bed care home’. There are, however, places where 42 individuals live well together and share some communal space, time and company.

A home is ‘lived in’

The environment is clean, tidy and well designed but any tendency to look and feel like a clinic is resisted. It is obvious that individuals have control over their own space.


Good care homes are engaged with their community. The local community takes responsibility too and encourages, cherishes and supports. Good care homes are welcoming places to visit.

Working with the health community

Good care homes have good relationships with the local health community – GPs, district nurses, hospital, consultants. They have respect for each other and work together to find solutions with the person at the centre.

Working with relatives

Relatives are confident in the values of the care home. They are able to challenge when needed and to thank. They can let the staff do their job with confidence. They understand that staff are people too and have their own relationships with the people who live there.

Regulatory support

Commissioners and regulators trust the care home and engage in an appreciative way, supporting it as a valued part of the ‘whole’ system. They share their knowledge, experiences and good ideas. They challenge and hold to account but they don’t place bureaucratic and ineffectual burdens on them.

Read more about John Kennedy's Care Home Inquiry.