Health Secretary, Steven Barclay, confirmed the Government’s commitment to introducing Martha’s Rule into Hospitals across England.
Martha’s Rule will ensure all patients and families are aware of their right to involve a second opinion whilst in hospital. This rule has been introduced following the tragic death of Martha Mills in 2021.
Martha was admitted to Kings College Hospital Trust in South London in 2021 following a pancreatic injury. Whilst in hospital she developed Sepsis and tragically died. The Coroner ruled that Martha would most likely have survived if the doctors had observed the warning signs and moved Martha to critical care. Martha’s parents both, on a number of occasions, raised concerns for their daughter and her deteriorating health but they were continuingly ignored.
Martha’s Rule will give patients, families and carers the legal right to formally request a review of their own or their family’s care in the same hospital, if they are deteriorating rapidly and their concerns are being disregarded. The hospitals will display contact information for the critical care teams that can be contacted for the formal review. This display should be communicated effectively and clearly using posters in the hospitals’ high traffic areas.
The campaign has made recommendations for the effectiveness of the system. The referral team must be independent to the treating team and they must be reliable. Mrs Mills pointed out during Martha’s admission that junior staff and nurses did not feel comfortable challenging the decision of a consultant. Therefore, the campaign encourages junior staff to use the system, alongside patients and families, to provide for its success.
There is a similar system in place in Queensland, Australia, “Ryan’s Rule”. The Rule helps to support patients and their families with raising concerns if the patient’s health is worsening or not improving. Since Ryan’s Rule was introduced in 2013, it has been raised 10,845 times and, so far in 2023, it has been used 1,524 times. Customers using the Rule say “it provides a reassuring safety net, empowering them to speak up and initiate a clinical review”. There has been a clear success following its implementation.
Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, has asked the patient-safety commissioner to work with NHS leaders to learn from this similar scheme.
Mr Barclay and the Royal College of Nursing support the introduction of Martha’s Rule. Mr Barclay suggested that it needs to be implemented “as quickly as possible” and has been working with hospitals across England to work out the processes and procedures that need to be in place for patients’, and their families’, voices to be heard.
Commenting on this development, Darren White, Head of the Medical Negligence Department at Dunn & Baker Solicitors, said “we find all too often in cases we handle that patients raise concerns with clinicians which are not sufficiently acted upon or not acted upon at all. The introduction of Martha’s Rule will hopefully mean that patients have the ability to have a second opinion and that tragic incidents such as Martha’s death can be avoided”.
If you believe that you or a family member have suffered avoidable harm as a result of negligent medical treatment, please contact our Medical Negligence team for a confidential initial discussion:
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