Martha’s rule to be rolled out in 143 hospital sites, NHS announces

The right to a second opinion follows the death of 13-year-old Martha Mills from sepsis in 2021.

Martha Mills died in 2021
Martha Mills died in 2021 (Mills/Laity family photograph/PA)

The NHS has announced the 143 hospital sites that will test and roll out Martha’s rule in its first year.

Martha’s rule will allow patients and families to seek a second opinion if they feel their condition, or the condition of a loved one, is deteriorating and they are not being listened to.

The escalation process will be available 24/7 at all 143 sites, with an internal phone number advertised on posters and leaflets throughout the hospitals.

Families and patients who ring the number will be able to request a second opinion from a critical care outreach team. The programme will be in place at all 143 sites by March 2025, NHS England said.

It follows the death of 13-year-old Martha Mills in 2021.

She developed sepsis after suffering a pancreatic injury following a fall from her bike.

Martha’s parents, Merope Mills and Paul Laity, raised concerns about their daughter’s health a number of times but these were brushed aside.

A coroner ruled she would most likely have survived if doctors had identified the warning signs of her rapidly-deteriorating condition and transferred her to intensive care earlier.

In the wake of her deaths, her parents campaigned extensively for a single system that would allow families to trigger an urgent clinical review from a different team in the hospital.

Welcoming the news on Monday, Martha’s parents said the rule would “save lives”.

“We are pleased that the rollout of Martha’s rule is off to a flying start and that the need for it has been so widely recognised,” they said.

“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.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the policy would represent “one of the most important changes to patient care in years”.

He said: “Rolling out Martha’s rule to over 143 NHS sites in this first phase will represent one of the most important changes to patient care in recent years and we are pleased to have seen such interest from hospitals right across the country, all thanks to the moving and dedicated campaigning by Martha’s parents, Merope and Paul.”