Shropshire Star

How Martha's Rule for families of hospital patients will work in its first year

NHS England has revealed details of how a trial of 'Martha's Rule' allowing families of patients to seek urgent reviews of their loved ones' treatment will be implemented in the West Midlands.

The rule is named after Martha Mills, who died aged 13 in 2021

Thirteen hospitals in the West Midlands, including the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen, will test and roll out the scheme in its first year.

The purpose of Martha’s Rule is to provide a consistent and understandable way for patients and families to seek an urgent review if their or their loved one’s condition deteriorates and they feel they are not being listened to.

The scheme is named after Martha Mills, who died from sepsis aged 13 having been treated at King’s College Hospital, London, in 2021, due to a failure to escalate her to intensive care, and after her family’s concerns about her deteriorating condition were not responded to.

Thirteen of the 143 sites taking part in the first year trial are in the West Midlands, including Shropshire's Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital.

Evaluation of how the system works in its first year will inform proposals for Martha’s Rule to be expanded further across all acute hospitals, subject to future government funding.

Martha’s Rule is to be made up of three components: firstly, an escalation process will be available 24/7, advertised throughout the hospitals on posters and leaflets, enabling patients and families to contact a critical care outreach team that can swiftly assess a case and escalate care if necessary.

Secondly, NHS staff will also have access to this same process if they have concerns about a patient’s condition.

Finally, clinicians at participating hospitals will also formally record daily insights and information about a patient’s health directly from their families, ensuring any concerning changes in behaviour or condition noticed by the people who know the patient best are considered by staff.

Extensive campaigning by Martha's parents, supported by the cross-party think tank Demos, saw widespread support for a single system that allows patients or their families to trigger an urgent clinical review from a different team in the hospital if the patient’s condition is rapidly worsening and they feel they are not getting the care they need.

Merope Mills and Paul Laity, Martha’s parents, said on Monday: "We are pleased that the roll-out of Martha's Rule is off to a flying start and that the need for it has been so widely recognised.

“It will save lives and encourage better, more open, communication on hospital wards, so that patients feel they are listened to, and partners in their healthcare."

Jess Sokolov, NHS England’s medical director for the Midlands, said: “Rolling out Martha’s Rule to thirteen sites in the West Midlands later this financial year will represent one of the most important changes to patient care in recent years.

“This first phase is an important milestone which allow staff, patients and families in these areas to immediately raise concerns and bring about an escalation in care in an easily recognisable and fast way.

“While thankfully the need for escalation of care will hopefully only be needed in a limited number of cases, this three-step safety net has the opportunity to truly transform patient care and safety.”