Patients and families to get 'urgent second opinion' from NHS if health suddenly deteriorates, in 'Martha's Rule'

21 February 2024, 06:02

Martha's Rule is being rolled out from April
Martha's Rule is being rolled out from April. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Patients and their families will be able to get an urgent review of how NHS staff are treating them if their health is deteriorating rapidly.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

'Martha's Rule' means that a critical care team will be available 24/7 to review patients' treatment.

At least 100 NHS trusts will bring in the rule, as the scheme is evaluated in 2024 and 2025. All acute hospitals would later roll out the rule, subject to government funding. The scheme will be advertised throughout hospitals.

A different team in the hospital would carry out an evaluation of the patient's health if they are rapidly worsening and they or their family feels they are not getting the care they need.

The rule is named after Martha Mills, who died aged 13 of sepsis in King's College Hospital in south London in 2021. She developed sepsis in hospital, and her parents begged for more urgent care, but were dismissed.

Read more: Trans women's milk just as good as woman's for feeding babies, NHS trust insists

Read more: Just one in 350 patients treated on flagship scheme to cut NHS backlog, as mum left waiting three years for surgery

Tom Swarbrick unpacks the 'horror story' of Martha Mills' death

An inquest found she would likely have lived if she had been moved faster to intensive care.

Martha's parents Merope Mills and Paul Laity said in a statement: "We are pleased that the implementation of Martha's Rule will begin in April.

"We want it to be in place as quickly and as widely as possible, to prevent what happened to our daughter from happening to other patients in hospital.

"We believe Martha's Rule will save lives. In cases of deterioration, families and carers by the bedside can be aware of changes busy clinicians can't; their knowledge should be recognised as a resource.

Martha Mills
Martha Mills. Picture: Alamy

"We also look to Martha's Rule to alter medical culture: to give patients a little more power, to encourage listening on the part of medical professionals, and to normalise the idea that even the grandest of doctors should welcome being challenged.

"We call on all NHS clinicians to back the initiative: we know that the large majority do listen, are open with patients and never complacent - but Martha's doctors worked in a different culture, so some situations need to change.

"Our daughter was quite something: fun and determined, with a vast appetite for life and so many plans and ambitions - we'll never know what she would have achieved with all her talents.

"Hers was a preventable death but Martha's Rule will mean that she didn't die completely in vain."

'I'd had a heart attack, they had to talk my husband through CPR... and the ambulance never arrived', says caller Kerry

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said Martha's Rule had the potential to "save many lives in the future".

She said: "Hearing about the heartbreaking loss of Martha and the experiences of her family has had a major impact for people right across the country, with parents, patients and NHS staff welcoming her parents' call for a simple process to escalate concerns when they can see a loved one's condition worsening.

"NHS teams have been piloting ways to better identify and respond in these cases over the last year, and the roll-out of a national programme to give patients and families 24/7 access to a rapid clinical review will now help ensure that those experiencing acute deterioration can be identified and treated much more quickly.

"I know I speak on behalf of all NHS staff when I thank Merope and Paul for their extraordinary campaigning and collaboration on this hugely important issue.

"While the need for escalation will hopefully only be needed in a small number of cases, I have no doubt that the introduction of Martha's Rule has the potential to save many lives in the future."

NHS teams will also look at ways ways to roll out an adapted Martha's Rule model in community and mental health hospitals.

Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation's acute network, welcomed the move.

He said: "Questions remain about what resources hospitals and other providers will be given to deliver the new scheme.

"Introducing a 24/7 clinical review process will have implementation costs and leaders will be concerned if they are just being expected to provide the additional service without any extra resources.

"But this rollout is part of an important shift where the NHS is looking to change the relationship between the NHS, clinicians, patients and their families.

"The future model of care is one where patients and their families are active partners in healthy communities, not just consumers of NHS services."

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: "Martha's death was a terrible tragedy, and I pay tribute to her parents Merope and Paul.

"Martha's Rule will provide a major boost to patient safety by putting in place a system that can be triggered by patients, or by their family and friends, when they are worried that their condition is worsening. This will give vital reassurance that the best care possible is being given.

"The introduction of Martha's Rule from April will put families at the heart of the patient's own care, recognising the critical role they have in the treatment of loved ones."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

‘Together we will win’: Netanyahu vows to fight off attacks from Iran after over 300 drones and missiles fired

Israeli's military have fought off a massive Iranian drone and missile attack - downing more than 200 weapons launched by the hostile state with the help of ace RAF pilots.

Israel fights off massive Iran attack - downing over 200 missiles and drones with help of RAF

Plans have been drawn up for an evacuation of Brits from the Middle East. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (l) and protesters outside the British Embassy in Tehran (r)

Brits living in the Middle East could be rescued by the Royal Marines in 'Dunkirk-style' evacuation

The knifeman who killed six people in a rampage at a Sydney shopping centre has been named as 40-year-old Joel Cauchi (left)

Pictured: Sydney knifeman, 40, who killed six people before being shot dead by brave policewoman

Iranian drones and missiles have arrived in Israel with explosions in the skies - as officials warn of a "significant response" to the massive attack.

Explosions in skies and sirens across Jerusalem amid Iranian attack - as Israel warns of 'significant response'

USS Bataan which is heading to the Eastern Mediterranean (main) and Joe Biden (r)

US sends amphibious warship and 2,500 Marines into the Eastern Mediterranean after Iran attacks Israel

US and UK forces are helping defend Israel from Iranian drones and missiles after a massive attack was launched.

British and American jets 'shoot down Iranian drones' as Rishi Sunak slams Iran for 'reckless' attack against Israel

President Biden is holding an emergency national security meeting as the US prepares its response to Iran's drone and missile attack on Israel.

President Biden holds high-stakes emergency meeting as Iran launches full-scale attack on Israel

Iron Dome Rocket Interceptions of Hamas Rockets- Southern Israel- Night Attack On Ashdod City

Israel closes airspace as it braces for Iranian drone attack

Iranian attack drones are 'en route to Israel', according to an Israeli Defence Force spokesperson.

Iran launches massive drone and missile attack on Israel as war in Middle East escalates

A mother who was stabbed while trying to defend her baby from the Sydney shopping centre knifeman has been pictured for the first time.

Pictured: Mother, 38, killed defending her baby from Sydney shopping centre massacre

Exclusive
Nearly 18,000 police officers were hired virtually by forces, prompting fears of another Wayne Couzens, LBC can reveal.

Nearly 18,000 police officers hired without face-to-face interviews by forces prompting fears of new Wayne Couzens

Lee Anderson's wife has been suspended by the Conservative party after being allegedly spotted campaigning for her husband's party Reform UK.

Lee Anderson's Tory councillor wife suspended from party after appearing to campaign for Reform in Ashfield

Election 2024 Decision Notes Alaska Wyoming

Biden wins Wyoming’s caucuses as eyes turn to Alaskan democrats

Hormuz incident

Iranian forces seize container ship near Strait of Hormuz

Russia Ukraine

Ukraine military chief warns of ‘significantly’ worsening battlefield situation