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Introducing Martha’s Rule: A Revolutionary Step in Patient Care

According to a recent report by BBC News, the NHS has announced that hospitals throughout England will be provided with funding to implement “Martha’s Rule” from April 2024. The government backed initiative, named after Martha Mills, a 13-year-old who lost her life to sepsis due to symptoms being missed, aims to facilitate easier access to a second opinion for seriously ill patients if their condition worsens.

What is Martha’s Rule and How Does it Work?

Martha’s Rule entails the establishment of a system allowing patients and their families to directly request a rapid review of treatment from a team of critical-care medics. Initially, at least 100 participating hospitals will be eligible to apply for government funding for posters and leaflets informing patients and their families that they can directly ask a team of critical-care medics for a second “rapid review” of treatment. These secondary reviews will be conducted by senior doctors or nurses from elsewhere in the healthcare facility who specialise in the care of deteriorating patients and who will also formally document families’ observations of the patient’s condition or behaviour.

This proactive approach aims to bridge potential gaps in care and ensure timely interventions, potentially saving lives. Martha’s mother, Merope, expressed her optimism about the prospect of this new system in an interview with  BBC R4’s Today programme last year, in which she emphasised the importance of recognising patients’ and families’ insights, especially when doctors are under significant pressure.

Future Implications and Challenges

While Martha’s Rule represents a significant leap forward in patient care, its success hinges on effective implementation and ongoing monitoring. The British Medical Association (BMA) has welcomed the initiative but emphasised the importance of addressing workforce shortages to ensure its sustainability. In support of the announcement, Amanda Pritchard, NHS England chief executive, said: NHS teams have been piloting ways to better identify and respond in these cases, over the last year, and the rollout 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.

Moreover, NHS England has said that the rollout of Martha’s Rule will undergo rigorous evaluation over the next year, with potential expansion to include all acute hospitals. Proposals are also being considered for adaptation for community hospitals and mental-health trusts.

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What is Sepsis?

Sepsis, often known as blood poisoning, is a serious medical condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection triggers a chain reaction that can lead to widespread inflammation, organ failure and even death. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is crucial. A delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis can result in devastating consequences for the patient. According to the UK Sepsis Trust, five people die with sepsis every hour in the UK. For further related information, read some of our recent articles:

Understanding Sepsis: FAQs and legal assistance for delayed diagnosis

Sepsis: A Decade of Hospital Failings and a Warning from The Ombudsman

Legal Assistance for Sepsis: Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis

Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you or a loved one has suffered due to a delay or misdiagnosis of sepsis, our dedicated medical negligence solicitors are ready to provide the legal support you need. We understand the devastating impact that negligent treatment can have on individuals and their families and we are here to help guide you through the process. When things don’t go right, we are here to get you the answers you deserve and the compensation you need to get your life back on track.

With offices across East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, including HullMarket RasenLincolnLouthScarborough and Grimsby, our lawyers have supported clients in these areas and across the UK for many years.

To speak to a member of our team today, please call 0800 987 8800, email or fill in this contact form.