BACKGROUND This article considers the moral notion of care in the context of Quality of Care discourses. Whilst care has clear normative implications for the delivery of health care it is less clear how Quality of Care, something that is centrally involved in the governance of UK health care, relates to practice. DISCUSSION This paper presents a social and ethical analysis of Quality of Care in the light of the moral notion of care and Bourdieu's conception of symbolic violence. We argue that Quality of Care bureaucracies show significant potential for symbolic violence or the domination of practice and health care professionals. This generates problematic, and unintended, consequences that can displace the goals of practice. SUMMARY Quality of Care bureaucracies may have unintended consequences for the practice of health care. Consistent with feminist conceptions of care, Quality of Care 'audits' should be reconfigured so as to offer a more nuanced and responsive form of evaluation.