Paediatric emergency department utilisation rates and maternal migration status in the Born in Bradford cohort: A cross-sectional study

Publication authors

Sarah H. Credé , Suzanne Mason, Elizabeth Such, Richard M. Jacques



Globally, international migration is increasing. Population growth, along with other demographic changes, may be expected to put new pressures on healthcare systems. Some studies across Europe suggest that emergency departments (EDs) are used more, and differently, by migrants compared to non-migrant populations, which may be a result of unfamiliarity with the healthcare systems and difficulties accessing primary healthcare. However, little evidence exists to understand how migrant parents, who are typically young and of childbearing age, utilise EDs for their children. This study aimed to examine the association between paediatric ED utilisation in the first 5 years of life and maternal migration status in the Born in Bradford (BiB) cohort study.

Methods and findings

We analysed linked data from the BiB study—an ongoing, multi-ethnic prospective birth cohort study in Bradford. Bradford is a large, ethnically diverse city in the north of England. In 2017, more than a third of births in Bradford were to mothers who were born outside the UK. Between March 2007 and December 2010, pregnant women were recruited to BiB during routine antenatal care, and the children born to these mothers have been, and continue to be, followed over time to assess how social, genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors impact on health from childhood to adulthood. Data analysed in this study included baseline questionnaire data from BiB mothers, and Bradford Royal Infirmary ED episode data for their children. Main outcomes were likelihood of paediatric ED use (no visits versus at least 1 ED visit in the first 5 years of life) and ED utilisation rates (number and frequency of ED visits) for children who have accessed the ED. The main explanatory variable was mother’s migrant status (foreign-born versus UK/Irish-born). Multivariable analyses (logistic and zero-truncated negative binomial regression) were conducted adjusting for socio-demographic and socio-economic factors. The final dataset included 10,168 children born between April 2007 and June 2011, of whom 35.6% were born to migrant mothers. Foreign-born mothers originated from South Asia (28.6%), Europe/Central Asia (3.2%), Africa (2.1%), East Asia/Pacific (1.1%), and the Middle East (0.6%). At recruitment the mothers ranged in age from 15 to 49 years old. Overall, 3,104 (30.5%) children had at least 1 ED visit in the first 5 years of life, with the highest proportion of visits being in the first year of life (36.7%). The proportion of children who visited the ED at least once was lower for children of migrant mothers as compared to children of non-migrant mothers (29.4% versus 31.2%). Children of migrant mothers were found to be less likely to visit the ED (odds ratio 0.88 [95% CI 0.80 to 0.97], p = 0.012). However, among children who visited the ED, the utilisation rate was significantly higher for children of migrant mothers (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.19 [95% CI 1.01 to 1.40], p = 0.040). Utilisation rates were higher for children born to mothers from Europe (IRR 1.71 [95% CI 1.07 to 2.71], p = 0.024) and established migrants (≥5 years living in UK) (IRR 1.24 [95% CI 1.02 to 1.51], p = 0.032) compared to UK/Irish-born mothers. Important limitations include being unable to measure children’s underlying health status and the urgency of ED attendance, as well as the analysis being limited by missing data.


In this study we observed that there is no higher likelihood of first paediatric ED attendance in the first 5 years of life for children in the BiB cohort for migrant mothers. However, among ED users, children of migrant mothers attend the service more frequently than children of UK/Irish-born mothers. Our findings show that patterns of ED utilisation differ by mother’s region of origin and time since arrival in the UK.