NHS to introduce 'Martha's Rule'
A patient and two doctors

The NHS has announced that 'Martha's Rule' will be introduced in hospitals in England from April.

The initiative will be rolled out across 100 NHS sites and will give patients and their families the opportunity to request a rapid review from an independent critical care team if they are worried about their or a loved one’s condition.

The initiative will be available 24/7 to patients, families and NHS staff, and will be advertised throughout hospitals.

'Martha's Rule' is named in honour of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who died from sepsis  at King’s College Hospital, London, in 2021. Her family raised concerns about her condition, but these were not responded to promptly.

Her parents, Merope and Paul have been campaigning 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.

NHS chief Amanda Pritchard said the programme had the potential to “save many lives in the future”.

Merope Mills and Paul Laity, Martha’s parents, said: “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. 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."

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, 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.”