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Care Guides > What are the 6 C’s of Care and Why Do They Matter?

What are the 6 C’s of Care and Why Do They Matter?

An elderly pair of ladies smiling and drinking tea together
Katy Jones profile image
9/9/2022

Anyone working in a role that involves caring for and looking after people should make sure they follow best practices while always striving to provide the best service. This means delivering high-quality and compassionate support while treating everyone with dignity and respect.

To establish and maintain an excellent level of care across settings like care homes, the NHS Commissioning Board developed a strategy known as Compassion in Practice. This introduced the concept of the six C’s, with these providing a solid indication as to the level of care that caregivers should be providing.

Keep reading to learn more about the 6 C’s, why they’re important and the care settings they can be applied to.


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In this article:

  1. What are the 6 c’s of care?
  2. Why are the 6 c’s of care important and why were they introduced?
  3. What care settings do they apply to?
  4. The 6 c’s in action



What are the 6 C’s of Care?

The 6 C’s of care are a set of values that need to be met by patient-facing health and social care staff. This includes registered healthcare professionals, clinical support staff, non-clinical staff and nurses within nursing homes - pretty much anyone who may come into contact with residents, patients or members of the public.

The 6 C’s are all equally important, with each providing an essential step on the pathway to providing care which is compassionate and of an excellent standard.


1. Care

Care should be at the core of how every care provider operates. Providing a high level of care will help people on an individual basis - as well as improving the local community and care industry. People who receive care will expect it to be right for them, at every stage of life.

Prevention, early intervention and health promotion are just as important as the treatment of ill health. Care should ensure that people can enjoy a positive experience while receiving the best possible outcomes.

For this to happen, care seekers need to be supported and provided with the necessary services that’ll allow them to remain active, connected and independent - whether this is in their own home, a care home or somewhere else.

As life expectancy increases, the demand for long-term care and support for older adults continues to grow. The 6 C’s have led care providers to think about health and care in new ways so they can deliver integrated services to people, families and communities.


A carer helping an elderly couple


2. Compassion

Compassion is about care being given through relationships based on empathy, respect and dignity.

The quality of care that residents receive is just as important as the quality of treatment. When receiving care, people want to be treated kindly, with dignity and respect. They should feel as though their carer has a genuine interest in them and their story. This means understanding individual needs and providing person-centred care.

In terms of the 6 C’s, demonstrating compassion also involves people being included in the decision-making process where their own care is concerned. People want their feedback and views to be listened to and acted upon.


Some practical actions that can be taken to create a compassionate care environment include:

  • Listening to care seekers, their families and anyone else involved in their care
  • Listening to and learning from feedback
  • Communicating across different caregiving organisations to ensure people receive quality care
  • Celebrating and sharing information, data, what works well and other best practices

3. Competence

Being competent in care means being able to understand an individual’s health and social requirements, along with the expertise and clinical knowledge needed to deliver amazing care.

This goes all the way back to recruitment. The 6 C’s can be used as a tool for recruiting into roles across all levels within the care sector. They can be used to assess the personal values of people applying to a specific role.

The 6 C’s are also mentioned across lots of care qualifications to empower staff to improve the experience for people using their services.


4. Communication

Communication is an essential part of successful caring relationships and teams that can work like a well-oiled machine, with listening being just as important as what we say and do.

Communication involves several skills that caregivers will need to use when providing high-quality care, including customer service, properly dealing with complaints and working in a team.

Care staff on the frontline are at the heart of this communication process. These care workers will assess, report and record the support provided in their care. They need to make sure that information is handled sensitively and confidentially. They also need to actively listen to what they’re told by the people they care for, along with co-workers, managers and other agencies.


Group discussion in a care home


5. Courage

Carers and members of staff having courage will allow them to do the right things for people they care for while speaking up whenever concerns arise and being able to embrace new ways of working within the care industry.


Lots of responsibility comes with working in the care sector, so care workers naturally take on lots of responsibility themselves including:

  • Being accountable for the care they provide
  • The safety of their residents
  • Having to make judgement calls that’ll affect others

A judgement call staff may have to make is being courageous enough to report something that they believe could be done more effectively.


The 6 C’s of care were created to empower care staff to contribute to improvements across the industry, with one of the main ways they can do this being by ‘whistle-blowing’ when something is wrong. Though care workers may find this uncomfortable, they need to be honest and brave for change to happen.


6. Commitment

The commitment part of the 6 C’s doesn’t just refer to the dedication of carers within their role. It also refers to a willingness for staff to keep developing their skills and knowledge. Carers can share knowledge with others while challenging any malpractice or discriminatory behaviour to improve the quality of care provided within the industry as a whole.

It’s also a commitment to fully embrace the 6 C’s and think about them daily.





Why are the 6 C’s of Care Important and Why Were They Introduced?

The main purpose of the 6 C’s is to make sure that anyone within a care setting is looked after and supported in a compassionate way, by people who are empathetic and can communicate well. They should also be brave enough to make changes that will improve care, while aspiring to provide a high level of care every day.

This central set of values was drawn up by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings and launched in December 2012.

Individually, each of the C’s highlights an aspect of care and support, while together they’re able to define a consistent vision and set of common values that can be applied across the entire care sector. They give us an easy-to-understand way of explaining the principles that care staff believe to be most important, while also providing a way of holding the services provided to account (if they aren’t up to scratch).

Each of the 6 C’s carries an equal weight of importance, with all six being important for providing compassionate care.


Woman and man sat down chatting to each other





What Care Settings Do They Apply To?

The number of people working in the UK adult social care sector for 2021-21 was estimated at 1.54 million. Around 1.2 million of these are in full-time equivalent jobs (similar to the NHS), including 865,000 care workers, 87,000 senior care workers and 36,000 registered nurses. There are also 135,000 roles directly employed by individual users of care services.


The Compassion in Practice strategy and the 6 C’s apply to all care and support settings in the UK, including:

  • Care homes (such as residential homes, nursing homes and dementia homes)
  • Clinics
  • Community services
  • Dental surgeries
  • Doctors and GP surgeries
  • Home care and other home services
  • Ambulances
  • Hospices
  • Phone and online advice
  • Prison healthcare

The 6 C’s also apply to the workers and volunteers within these care settings, including:

  • Carers
  • Disability support workers
  • Home care workers
  • Attendant care workers
  • Personal care workers and assistants
  • Volunteer carers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Community support workers
  • Doctors and GPs
  • Nurses
  • Dentists
  • Hygienists
  • Paramedics

Nurse wearing a face mask administering care





The 6 C’s in Action

Here are a handful of case studies that help to show the importance of the 6 C’s and how they can make a big difference when properly applied.


Wrightington hospital

An elderly patient at Wrightington Hospital told the Quality and Safety Matron that her care was excellent and she felt confident to say when it wasn’t. She also said that despite this great standard of care, she still missed her home and family.

After mentioning this, a nurse who was caring for her decided to pin a collection of photos to the wall. This simple yet effective act of compassion worked wonders for the patient’s mood whenever she was feeling down.

A good experience in care leads to better recovery. In this case, it meant getting the patient home to her husband and family as quickly as possible.


Croydon health services

Croydon Health Services have taken several steps to improve patient experience, including running a weekly series in their internal e-newsletter for staff called: “What have you done today to improve care and patient experience?”

This is a really good way of improving staff engagement to create a culture of shared learning and feel-good stories. One nurse helped an anxious resident prepare for a colonoscopy by helping her with feelings of vulnerability caused by the gown and underwear she was given.

Sharing examples like this with the rest of their team proves that staff members are listening to patients and demonstrating the 6 C’s of care on a day-to-day basis.


North Derbyshire clinical commissioning group

This care facility works with various groups to make sure people are only admitted to the hospital if absolutely necessary.

This includes a redesign of the urgent care pathway (within Discharge to Assess), an integrated model of care and a better focus on patient-centred care. The changes to the care pathway - along with the commitment of staff and support of commissioners - have allowed boundaries to be removed, ensuring that the right care is delivered in the right place at the right time.

Because of this, patients have reported how they’ve been supported to meet their personal goals.






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