Martha's rule: a beacon of hope in healthcare - a reflection on advocacy and change, writes Andy Coulson

22 February 2024, 08:30 | Updated: 22 February 2024, 08:32

Martha's rule: a beacon of hope in healthcare - a reflection on advocacy and change, writes Andy Coulson
Martha's rule: a beacon of hope in healthcare - a reflection on advocacy and change, writes Andy Coulson. Picture: Alamy/LBC
Andy Coulson

By Andy Coulson

If, as I’ve been repeatedly told by those who are closer to the action, the general election will take place on Thursday November 14th, we are but  266  sleeps away.

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We don’t yet know how many cock-ups, crises and reputational batterings lie ahead for our politicians in those  6000 plus hours of campaigning. But we can be pretty certain there will be plenty.

As the Dutch like to say … reputation arrives on foot but always leaves in a taxi. And a general election is the ultimate cab rank that will soon be ferrying a number of well-known Westminster faces off to political oblivion.

But before the SW1A Squid Games begin, let’s take a moment to congratulate some of those who are about to compete.

The news that Martha’s rule – a system that will give patients and parents the right to ask for a second opinion when their loved one is seriously ill – is evidence that the political class is still able to focus on real people’s concerns.

Thanks to the campaigning brilliance of Merope Mills, mother of Martha who died three years ago of sepsis aged just 13, most hospitals in England will be offered funding to support this vital second opinion scheme.

The decision could easily have become one of those that our politicians waited for the white heat of the election to deploy in the hope of motivating some extra votes. It wouldn’t be the first time that an emotive health issue was used in this way. Instead, this change has been driven through quickly on a wave of decency and common sense from both main parties.

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One person who will be thrilled by the news of this development is the BAFTA-winning actor Jason Watkins. Jason and his wife Clara lost their two-and-a-half year old daughter Maude to sepsis in 2011. They too were unable to get a second opinion and as a result lost their child.

That there are still 48,000 deaths a year in the UK attributed to sepsis is a shocking fact that has caused them to campaign tirelessly for families to be more aware of the condition.

Jason joined me recently on my podcast Crisis What Crisis and talked movingly about how he hoped our politicians would act. He said: “‘My anger was fuelled into trying to work out better ways of dealing with sepsis.

“Why is sepsis this massive, why can’t we just treat it? Why can’t people be on top of it?

But because I’d identified that there wasn’t an individual at fault in the hospital, if it’s not the individual it has to be the system. So, we’ve got to improve the system.”

Jason will continue to campaign for a national database for sepsis cases – this new system should make that easier and more likely to happen.

So, before we put the (almost certainly justified) boot into those who are about to embark on the campaign trail, let’s take some comfort that our flawed system and those who work within it can still make the world of difference to people’s lives.


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