The Quality Standards for Health and Social Care

Supporting Good Governance and Best Practice in the HSC

The Quality Standards for Health and Social Care are part of a broader framework to raise the quality of health and social care services provided to the community throughout Northern Ireland
The Quality Standards were formally launched on 14th March 2006Link to an external website by Health Minister, Shaun Woodward.  These standards
  • Give the HSC and other organisations a measure against which they can assess themselves and demonstrate improvement
  • Help service users and carers to understand what quality of service they are entitled to
  • Help to ensure implementation of the duty the HSC has in respect of human rights and equality of opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland; and
  • Enable formal assessement of the quality and safety of health and social care services.

Duty of Quality

The Health and Personal Social Services (Quality,Improvement and Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 applied a “statutory duty of quality” on the HSC Board and Trusts. This means that each organisation, large or small has a legal responsibility to ensure that the care it provides must meet a required standard.
Delivery of health and social care services is increasingly complex. It is plainly in the interests of commissioners, providers, service users and carers that we try and keep such complexity to a minimum. In order to do this, we need to adopt a more integrated approach to how the HSC demonstrates quality of service delivery. There are many different kinds of standards already in use and is not our intention to create yet more if not necessary. These are overarching standards which incorporate and complement those that already exist. The five quality themes which make up the standards will be applicable to any health and social care enviroment whether community, primary, secondary or tertiary care.

The Five Themes

The 5 key quality themes are:
  1. Corporate Leadership and Accountability of Organisations
  2. Safe and Effective Care
  3. Accessible, Flexible and Responsive Services
  4. Promoting, Protecting and Improving Health and Social Well-being and
  5. Effective Communication and Information

How will the standards be used to measure quality?

The Health and Personal Social Services Regulation and Improvement Authority (RQIA)Link to an external website is an independent organisation which has two main functions:
  • inspection of the services provided by the HSC in Northern Ireland and
  • regulation of specified health and social health and social care services provided by the HSC and independent sector
RQIA in conjunction with HSC organisations, services users and carers, will agree how the standards will be interpreted to assess service quality.  Specific tools will be designed to allow the RQIA to measure that quality and assist HSC organisations to assess themselves. RQIA will provide a report on its assessment of governance from 2006/07 onwards.

Service User Information

Further information for service users on the Quality Standards can be found in the Up To Standard Leaflet  (PDF 436KB).  A guidance booklet, Lets Talk  (PDF 334KB) also provides advice to service users on how to get the best treatment and care from our health and social services.


A public consultation was held on the draft standards for the period from May 2005 to July 2005. A summary of responses (PDF 529KB) outlines the feedback received.

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