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Publication, Part of

NHS Maternity Statistics, England - 2020-21

Official statistics


This is a report on NHS maternity activity in England. The report examines data relating to delivery and birth episodes in 2020-21, and the booking appointments for these deliveries.

The report examines data from both Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and the Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS). In doing so it aims to provide a more complete picture of NHS maternity activity.

This report does not examine statistics relating to outpatient appointments or attendances at A&E departments reported within HES which may be found in other reports. Data on other aspects of the maternity pathway from the MSDS is reported in a monthly publication series.

Both sets of data are submitted by NHS providers in England on a monthly basis to NHS Digital. The HES data is patient level record based data relating to deliveries in NHS hospitals, and looks at specific types of hospital episodes called ‘finished delivery episodes’ and ‘finished birth episodes’. The MSDS is a patient-level data set that captures key information at each stage of the maternity service care pathway in NHS-funded maternity services. It is a maturing, national-level dataset and reporting coverage has continued to improve. However it does not yet capture as many deliveries as are recorded in HES. As such statistics using MSDS are classified as experimental and should be used with caution.

Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS)

The MSDS is a patient-level data set that captures key information at each stage of the maternity service care pathway in NHS-funded maternity services, such as those maternity services provided by GP practices and hospitals. The data collected includes mother’s demographics, booking appointments, admissions and re-admissions, screening tests, labour and delivery along with baby’s demographics, diagnoses and screening tests. This information has been reported to NHS Digital on a monthly basis since April 2015.

The MSDS has been developed to help achieve better outcomes of care for mothers, babies and children. As a 'secondary uses' data set, it re-uses clinical and operational data for purposes other than direct patient care. It provides comparative, mother and child-centric data that will be used to improve clinical quality and reduce health inequalities.

In April 2019 the MSDS transitioned to a new version of the dataset. MSDS v2.0 is an update to the previous data set that introduced a new structure and content, including clinical terminology, in order to meet current clinical practice and incorporate new requirements. It is designed to meet requirements that resulted from the National Maternity Review, which led to the publication of the Better Births report in February 2016. Due to the change in MSDS, data from this year and 2019-20 are not directly comparable to earlier years of MSDS data.

Statistics published in this report using maternity data from MSDS are classified as Experimental Statistics, these are new official statistics undergoing evaluation. They are published to involve users and stakeholders in their development and to build in quality at an early stage.
Further information on the MSDS and MSDS v2.0 is available at:

Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)

This comes from the HES data warehouse containing details of all admissions, outpatient appointments and accident and emergency (A&E) attendances at National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in England. It includes private patients treated in NHS hospitals, patients who were resident outside of England and care delivered by treatment centres (including those in the independent sector) funded by the NHS.

HES datasets are the data source for a wide range of healthcare analyses for the NHS, Government and many other organisations and individuals. HES is sourced from the Secondary Uses Service (SUS) database, which is collected from hospitals’ patient administration systems on a monthly basis at record level.

Records in the HES Admitted Patient Care (APC) database, which form the basis of this Hospital Maternity Activity publication, are called ‘hospital episodes’, and each hospital episode relates to a period of care for a patient under a single consultant within one hospital provider. A stay in hospital from admission to discharge is called a ‘spell’ and can be made up of one or more episodes of care. This publication releases some high level analyses of HES data relating to deliveries in NHS hospitals, and looks at specific types of hospital episodes called ‘finished delivery episodes’ and ‘finished birth episodes’.

Statistics published in this report using maternity data from HES are classified as Official Statistics reflecting its status as an established data source.
Each record in HES includes a wide range of information including details of the patient (age, gender, geographic details), when they were treated and what they were treated for.

Information included with this publication

Summary tables

These tables contain the underlying data presented in this report. It is a joint document between HES and MSDS providing a collective and coherent message between the two datasets. 

Maternity Statistics Tables (HES)

This publication includes detailed tables at national level (HES Data):

  • Time series
  • Method of onset of labour
  • Method of delivery
  • Age of mother
  • Deprivation
  • Ethnicity
  • Delivery complications
  • Birth complications

Each of these tables is further broken down by additional dimensions such as gestation length, duration of hospital stay and birth status.

Provider level analysis (HES)

In addition to national aggregations of activity a provider-level analysis is supplied; this allows users to select hospital providers and compare activity with peer organisations, regions or the England total. One of the purposes of the provider-level analysis is to contribute to the improvement of both the quality and coverage of the data submitted to HES.

CSV data (MSDS)

A CSV file containing the aggregate underlying data for all submitters and by provider.


The table descriptions that accompany this publication are given in the documents entitled ‘NHS Maternity Activity, 2020-21 – HES Metadata’ and ‘NHS Maternity Activity, 2020-21 – MSDS Metadata’; this includes descriptions of the tables included in the report, as well as providing useful links to other relevant webpages and documents.

Data Quality Review and Exploratory Analysis of Neonatal Critical Care Minimum Data Set (NCCMDS), Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS)

Published alongside the report this supplementary analysis has been produced by NHS Digital and contains Management Information produced using the NCCMDS and MSDS data collected by NHS Digital against activity published in NHS Reference Costs. This analysis seeks to assist users of the data in understanding the data quality of reported neonatal critical care data in both the NCCMDS and MSDS highlighting issues around coverage coherence and completeness of this data looking at the provider and all submitters geographies in order to assist how such data maybe used to support future user needs.

Other maternity data sources

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also collects information on births and maternities (maternities are equivalent to deliveries in HES). Most of the information, for both live births and stillbirths, is supplied to registrars by one or both parents. It is legal requirement in England and Wales to register the identity of a new baby within 42 days of the birth.

As it is a legal requirement to register all births, the ONS is the official source of delivery and birth information and should be used in preference to HES and MSDS maternity data held by NHS Digital.

NHS Digital maternity data has the following advantages:

  • detailed information on the hospital care that a mother and baby received before, during and after the delivery, such as the method of delivery and the type of anaesthetic received;
  • clinical information about the mother and baby – diagnosis, investigation and treatment details;
  • the organisation where the baby was delivered.
  • Investigating links between previous medical or socio demographic factors of the mother at the beginning of the pregnancy to outcomes at the end of the pregnancy (MSDS).
Statistics on Women's Smoking Status at Time of Delivery

NHS Digital produces a quarterly report on women's smoking status at the time of delivery in England which can be found here:

The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit

The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit (NMPA) is a large-scale audit of the NHS maternity services across England, Scotland and Wales. Published data from the NMPA can be accessed via their website:

Last edited: 15 September 2023 5:20 pm