This site is intended for health professionals only

Improving maternity outcomes with social investment

Improving maternity outcomes with social investment
By Sabrina Rafael, health and social care manager at Social Finance
22 March 2024

Improving maternity outcomes has remained a steadfast objective for the NHS, with endeavours aimed at reducing stillbirths and enhancing overall care standards. However, despite concerted efforts, achieving equitable outcomes in maternity care continues to present significant challenges.

The complexities inherent in maternity care are well-documented, ranging from a mounting staffing crisis to issues around continuity of care and inadequate risk assessment protocols. These challenges underscore the disparities evident in experiences and outcomes across different societal groups, such as the correlation between ethnicity and maternal mortality rates.

Despite numerous initiatives, such as national inquiries and research efforts, the NHS struggles to implement recommendations due to recurrent funding constraints and capacity limitations.

As one NHS maternity service manager says, ‘I am surrounded by so many smart people capable of marvellous things that can change the future, but they don’t have the headspace or access to the funds to make it happen.’  

So, how can we adopt innovative approaches to address these fundamental issues and drive tangible improvements in outcomes?


Social investment is one option. This approach can improve outcomes in maternity care, just as it has helped boost results in other areas, such as end-of-life care.

Social investment can take various forms, but all aim to provide upfront capital to pilot and scale health interventions, thereby yielding both financial and social returns. Central to this approach are principles emphasising rigorous outcome measurement, flexibility, experimentation, and accountability for impact.

Working with Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust, Social Finance is leveraging social investment as a catalyst for designing, funding, and scaling evidence-based interventions that enhance outcomes for mothers, babies, and healthcare staff.

Through extensive consultations with midwives, service managers, and clinicians, three priority areas have emerged: improving risk stratification, enhancing neonatal community care provision, and fostering meaningful community engagement among groups experiencing the poorest outcomes.

Interventions across these priority areas have now been developed and form part of the growing and inspiring portfolio of a new fund – the Maternity Transformation Fund (MTF).

What is the Maternity Transformation Fund?

The MTF drives systemic change by blending grant capital with repayable investments. It will support a portfolio of interventions aimed at achieving predefined outcomes crucial to mothers and staff, thereby generating value for the healthcare system.

These interventions include:

  1. An AI-based risk assessment tool designed to quantitatively evaluate risk factors at various stages of pregnancy, leveraging datasets and training models to enhance predictive accuracy.
  2. A neonatal virtual ward offering home-based phototherapy, oxygen therapy, and tube feeding for select pre-term babies through a specialised community care team.
  3. A community-based model centred on fostering support between midwives and mothers, providing comprehensive assistance beyond clinical care to underserved women facing multiple disadvantages.

Together, these interventions seek to improve a wide range of outcomes spanning clinical efficacy, service delivery, patient experience, staff satisfaction, and health equity. While the initial focus is in Oxfordshire, the overarching ambition is to scale these evidence-based interventions nationwide, thereby amplifying their impact.

Unlocking funds

We are raising a £3 million multi-year fund to provide much-needed sustainable transformation funding to bolster maternity outcomes. Founding members can provide catalytic capital, with the NHS paying when better outcomes are achieved. The outcome payments can then be re-invested across a portfolio of projects to sustain long-term transformational impact in Oxford and across the UK.

 Unlocking the potential of social investment requires collaborative efforts and shared learning across the sector. There is a growing network of mission-aligned partners in this space, including the Oxford University Hospital Charity, Health Innovation Oxford & Thames Valley, Oxford Maternity Voices Partnership, Maternal Mental Health Alliance, The Essential Baby Co, and others.

For further information about the Maternity Transformation Fund, contact [email protected].

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related articles