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Operationalising the Lean principles in maternity service design using 3P methodology
  1. Iain Smith
  1. UK
  1. Correspondence to Iain Smith; iain.smith{at}


The last half century has seen significant changes to Maternity services in England. Though rates of maternal and infant mortality have fallen to very low levels, this has been achieved largely through hospital admission. It has been argued that maternity services may have become over-medicalised and service users have expressed a preference for more personalised care. NHS England's national strategy sets out a vision for a modern maternity service that continues to deliver safe care whilst also adopting the principles of personalisation. Therefore, there is a need to develop maternity services that balance safety with personal choice.

To address this challenge, a maternity unit in North East England considered improving their service through refurbishment or building new facilities. Using a design process known as the production preparation process (or 3P), the Lean principles of understanding user value, mapping value-streams, creating flow, developing pull processes and continuous improvement were applied to the design of a new maternity department. Multiple stakeholders were engaged in the design through participation in a time-out (3P) workshop in which an innovative pathway and facility for maternity services were co-designed. The team created a hybrid model that they described as “wrap around care” in which the Lean concept of pull was applied to create a service and facility design in which expectant mothers were put at the centre of care with clinicians, skills, equipment and supplies drawn towards them in line with acuity changes as needed.

Applying the Lean principles using the 3P method helped stakeholders to create an innovative design in line with the aspirations and objectives of the National Maternity Review. The case provides a practical example of stakeholders applying the Lean principles to maternity services and demonstrates the potential applicability of the Lean 3P approach to design healthcare services in line with policy requirements.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See:

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