We will provide an overall evaluation for each of the key questions we inspect, using the six-point scale from unsatisfactory (1) to excellent (6). This will be taken from the specific quality indicators that we inspect.

The evaluations for each set of quality indicators within the key question will inform an overall evaluation (using the same scale) for that particular key question. key question the indicators sit under. 

Where we inspect only one of the quality indicators under a key question, the evaluation we give the indicator will automatically be the evaluation for the key question overall.  Where we inspect more than one quality indicator per key question, the overall evaluation for the key question will be the lowest evaluation (grade) of the quality indicators for that specific key question. 

For example, if we evaluate only one quality indicator under key question two, as ‘very good’ then the overall evaluation for key question two will be ‘very good’. However, if we evaluate three quality indicators under key question two as ‘good’, ‘adequate’, and ‘good’ respectively, the overall evaluation for the key question will be ‘adequate’. This indicates that there is a key element of practice that makes the overall key question no better than the lowest evaluation (grade).

The six-point scale

We use the six-point scale to describe the quality we see:

6        Excellent Outstanding or sector leading
5 Very good Major strengths 
4 Good Important strengths, with some areas for improvement
3 Adequate  Strengths just outweigh weaknesses
Weak Important weaknesses - priority action required
1 Unsatisfactory Major weaknesses - urgent remedial action required 


An evaluation of excellent describes performance which is sector leading and supports experiences and outcomes for people which are of outstandingly high quality.  There is a demonstrable track record of innovative, effective practice and/or very high-quality performance across a wide range of its activities and from which others could learn. We can be confident that excellent performance is sustainable and that it will be maintained.

An evaluation of very good will apply to performance that demonstrates major strengths in supporting positive outcomes for people.  There are very few areas for improvement.  Those that do exist will have minimal adverse impact on people’s experiences and outcomes.  While opportunities are taken to strive for excellence within a culture of continuous improvement, performance evaluated as very good does not require significant adjustment.

An evaluation of good applies to performance where there is a number of important strengths which, taken together, clearly outweigh areas for improvement.  The strengths will have a significant positive impact on people’s experiences and outcomes.  However, improvements are required to maximise wellbeing and ensure that people consistently have experiences and outcomes which are as positive as possible.

An evaluation of adequate applies where there are some strengths but these just outweigh weaknesses.  Strengths may still have a positive impact but the likelihood of achieving positive experiences and outcomes for people is reduced significantly because key areas of performance need to improve. Performance which is evaluated as adequate may be tolerable in particular circumstances, such as where a service or partnership is not yet fully established, or in the midst of major transition.  However, continued performance at adequate level is not acceptable. Improvements must be made by building on strengths while addressing those elements that are not contributing to positive experiences and outcomes for people.

An evaluation of weak will apply to performance in which strengths can be identified but these are outweighed or compromised by significant weaknesses.  The weaknesses, either individually or when added together, substantially affect peoples’ experiences or outcomes.  Without improvement as a matter of priority, the welfare or safety of people may be compromised, or their critical needs not met.  Weak performance requires action in the form of structured and planned improvement by the provider or partnership with a mechanism to demonstrate clearly that sustainable improvements have been made.

An evaluation of unsatisfactory will apply when there are major weaknesses in critical aspects of performance which require immediate remedial action to improve experiences and outcomes for people. It is likely that people’s welfare or safety will be compromised by risks which cannot be tolerated.  Those accountable for carrying out the necessary actions for improvement must do so as a matter of urgency, to ensure that people are protected, and their wellbeing improves without delay.

While we have clarified what we mean by each evaluation to ensure a better, shared understanding of these, our evaluation scale from one to six has not changed.  This is because in the 100 test inspections we carried out, there were no significant issues that indicated a change was needed.

The Health and Social Care Standards published by the Scottish Government in 2017, significantly modernise the expectations of what people should experience from their care and support.  We must, by law, take these into account when making decisions on our inspections.