NHS to introduce Martha's rule for hospital patients - our response

We have welcomed the introduction of Martha's rule for hospital patients.

We've welcomed the introduction of 'Martha's Rule' in NHS hospitals. 

What is it?

The rule would act as an extra safeguard for patients or their loved ones who want a second opinion about treatment options, particularly in the event of a suspected deterioration or serious concern on the part of a patient on a hospital ward, or their family or carer.

The introduction of 'Martha's Rule' follows the powerful testimony of Merope Mills, the mother of a girl – Martha – who died of a preventable sepsis infection in hospital aged thirteen. She has described how families can find it difficult to be properly heard when their loved ones are seriously ill, sometimes with tragic and fatal consequences.

How will it help?

Patients can already request second opinions on their treatment, and most doctors respect these requests. However, the new rule proposed would shift the balance of power from medical discretion to the patient or their family being able to trigger a second opinion directly. Lives have already been saved in a pilot of this kind of system at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and other countries already run similar schemes. 

Implemented correctly, with clear communications to patients to notify them about their rights and increased focus on non-technical skills as part of medical training, the introduction of Martha's Rule would help to reassure patients and families and ultimately save lives in future.

Our response 

Louise Ansari, our CEO said: 

“The news that Martha's rule will be introduced into the NHS is a hugely welcome step.

“The rule would help shift the balance of power from medical discretion to the patient or their family being able to get a second opinion directly.

“The rule has already been shown to work in other countries and could potentially save lives. And so we urge the government to adopt it as a single, easily understood scheme so the public knows this safeguard will be in place, regardless of which hospital they or their loved one is being treated in.”

Find out more about Martha's Rule


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