NHS to roll out ‘Martha’s Rule’ from April

Today the NHS has announced the nationwide rollout of ‘Martha’s Rule’ in hospitals across England, beginning in April as announced on the BBC today.

Davies and Partners’ Chief Executive and Head of Medical Negligence Ewan Lockhart acted for the family of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who tragically died of sepsis while being treated at King’s College Hospital (KCH) in South London, following an injury to her pancreas.

Martha Mills was taken to KCH having sustained injuries in a fall from her bike while on holiday. She was transferred to the south London hospital because it is one of three national centres for the care of children with pancreatic trauma.

During the inquest into Martha’s death, Senior Coroner Mary Hassell, found that had Martha been transferred to the KCH’s paediatric intensive care ward earlier during her treatment, she would have likely survived. The Senior Coroner was concerned that there was still a risk of death for paediatric liver patients at KCH and made Regulation 28 Prevention of Future Death Report.

The Martha’s Rule initiative, announced today, aims to empower patients and their families by providing 24/7 access to a rapid review from an independent critical care team when concerned about a patient’s deteriorating condition. The program, named after Martha, seeks to prevent similar incidents by enabling timely escalation to intensive care.

Martha’s parents, Merope Mills and Paul Laity, played a pivotal role in advocating for a unified system allowing families to trigger urgent clinical reviews when a patient’s condition worsens rapidly.

As part of Martha’s Rule, health staff at participating hospitals will record daily insights and information about a patient’s health directly from their families. This approach ensures that those who know the patient best can contribute valuable observations, potentially leading to quicker identification and response to deteriorating conditions.

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard acknowledged the impact of Martha’s story on a national scale and commended Martha’s parents for their advocacy. The initial rollout in at least 100 trust sites during 2024/25 will be evaluated to inform potential expansion across all acute hospitals, contingent on government funding. Additionally, adaptations of Martha’s Rule may be considered for implementation in other healthcare settings.

The introduction of Martha’s Rule aligns with broader efforts to improve the identification of deterioration, including the recent rollout of the Paediatric Early Warning System. This system, implemented in November 2023, allows clinicians to track potential deterioration in children by recording changes in vital signs. These measures collectively contribute to ongoing work to enhance the use of data, support staff in managing deterioration, and involve patients, families, and carers more actively in healthcare decision-making.

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