Government backs plans to roll out “Martha’s Rule”

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Blog Posts

Martha's Rule

The government has backed plans to roll out “Martha’s Rule” from April.

Martha’s Rule

Martha’s Rule is a result of a campaign by the parents of 13-year-old Martha Mills. Martha died of sepsis because the severity of her symptoms was missed, despite her mother and father raising concerns about her care, which the hospital ignored.

Martha’s parents campaigned to allow seriously ill patients access to a second opinion if their condition deteriorates.

New scheme introduced

On 21 February, the NHS announced that participating hospitals in England will receive funding for posters and leaflets. These will notify patients and their loved ones that they can ask a team of critical care professionals for a “rapid review” of the patient’s treatment.

A senior doctor or nurse from elsewhere in the hospital, specialising in the care of patients who are deteriorating, will carry out the review. They will also record the families’ observations of a patient’s condition.

Ms Mills told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Sometimes, doctors are incredibly overstretched, and they cannot always spot the same changes in a patient that family and patients can”.

Challenging doctors

In cases like Martha’s, challenging a doctor’s decision can be extremely difficult. Indeed, Martha’s parents told three different consultants that they were worried about her but were told, “she would be fine and this was a normal infection she had”.

Patients do have the right to a second opinion, but NHS trusts operate differently. It is hoped that the new scheme will make it easier for patients and their families to challenge doctors’ decisions.

Health Secretary, Victoria Aitken said that the service would be rolled out “step by step”. She said on BBC Breakfast, “This is something I believe very strongly in… and so we will be rolling this out across England and supporting hospitals to make sure that this service is as we’d all expect it to be.”

Debra Woolfson, Head of our Medical Negligence team said,

“Doctors are only human, and when they are busy they need us to point to the changes that we see in the patient and if they don’t have time to listen. A process for getting a second opinion when we are worried that things are getting worse rather than better can hopefully reduce the chances of what happened to Martha and her family happening to others.”

Debra and her team are experts in medical negligence claims, and have dealt with many cases where the medical professional has not listened to the patient or the family advocating on their behalf. For an initial chat with the team, call us on 0800 988 7756.


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