Responses to demand uncertainty in the field of health-care services is a very timely research issue because of ongoing changes in demand patterns that are driven by demographics and recent changes in the delivery of these services. Despite its importance to researchers, the literature on demand management, capacity management and performance in health care has not been extensively reviewed. The present paper addresses this need by analyzing and synthesizing 463 articles published between 1986 and 2006. The key contributions of this work are the analysis and synthesis of research on demand management, capacity management and performance, along with an agenda to guide future research in this important area. © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and British Academy of Management.