Population change and the provision and use of NHS maternity services

Institute for Fiscal Studies

  • Project led by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and supported by the Health Foundation’s Policy Challenge Fund. Due summer 2016.
  • Focuses on understanding how NHS services respond to increased demand without a corresponding increase in available resources.
  • Will analyse the effect of population growth on maternity services.

The NHS is under immense financial pressure, which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. By understanding how growing demand coupled with limited budgets has impacted quality of health care in the past, we can better prepare for the future.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), supported by the Health Foundation’s Policy Challenge Fund, will investigate how previous changes in population size have affected the demand for NHS maternity services, how those services responded to that extra demand, and whether there were any implications for quality.

The research will aim to answer two questions:​

1) What impact has recent population changes had on:

  • the demand for NHS maternity services
  • the quality of maternity care received by patients

2) How have NHS providers responded to meet increased demand without corresponding increases in funding?

To build a clear picture the study will collate and analyse data on:

  • births, including how babies were delivered
  • population sizes and the local socioeconomic characteristics over time
  • service factors including number of maternity wards, total number of beds, and staffing data.

The project will help understand how a constrained budget can impact the quality of care in the NHS. This will be relevant to policymakers supporting the NHS to safeguard quality through financial challenges. The project is due to be complete in the summer of 2016

Contact details

For more information, please contact Felicity Dormon, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, or George Stoye, Research Economist at the IFS.

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