From April 2015, our inspectors will be using the Short Observational Framework for Inspection - or SOFI - during inspections of care homes for adults.

The SOFI tool provides a framework to enhance the observations we already make at inspections about the wellbeing of people using the service and staff interaction with them.

So, what is SOFI?

SOFI is an approved, internationally recognised tool for regulators. It provides a framework to enhance the observations about well-being and staff interactions that we already make on inspection. Its strength lies in the regular, powerful and factual evidence that it provides, especially for service users unable to communicate their views. The Bradford Dementia Group and the Care Quality Commission, the regulator of care services in England), developed the tool to capture the experiences of people who use services and who may not be able to express this for themselves. They originally designed it for inspectors to use while inspecting services for people with dementia or severe learning disabilities; however, regulators in England and Wales have extended its use to include anyone who has difficulties communicating their experience of care. The Care Inspectorate introduced SOFI for inspection of older people's services in 2014.

How do inspectors use SOFI?

SOFI is one of the components of an inspector's toolkit. Inspectors can only use it once they have been through the appropriate training. It is not designed to be used alone. It acts as one source of evidence – in making a judgement; they can only use the data if they can corroborate it by other evidence. The observations do not replace talking to people who use services but can help an inspector get a clearer picture. Using the tool helps to raise questions about care practice that the inspector can then follow up by checking other sources of evidence. They can also use the observations to check evidence gathered from other sources such as care plans and talking to staff or visitors. 

What information does SOFI capture?

Inspectors observe the mood and engagement of people using the services and the quality of staff interactions. They also make notes on other aspects of care practice during their observations. Feedback on SOFI observations to staff and managers in the care service also enables them to become more reflective practitioners and supports practice improvement. 

Can care service providers use SOFI?

SOFI was designed and licenced for regulators, therefore, care service providers and commissioners of services cannot use it. The University of Bradford and the CQC own the copyright for SOFI.

We will use our learning in using SOFI during inspection to better support providers in how to improve their communication with people who use services.

If you would like further information, please contact your lead inspector or Stuart MacKenzie, Team Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.