Martha's rule

21 February 2024

It was announced today that ‘Martha’s rule’ is to be adopted initially in 100 hospitals from April 2024, as part of a national rollout.

Martha’s rule gives patients and their families easy access to a second opinion from doctors and nurses not involved in the medical team treating the patient if they are deteriorating rapidly and feel their concerns are being dismissed.

The initiative is being rolled out following the death of 13-year-old Martha, who sustained an injury to her pancreas when she fell off her bike on a summer holiday. Martha’s parents explicitly voiced concerns about their daughter contracting sepsis, a major cause of avoidable death, but the doctors did not listen. An inquest heard that had Martha been moved to intensive care sooner, a concern raised by her parents, she probably would have survived.

Martha’s rule gives patients at the hospitals involved in the programme, 24/7 access to a team of critical care doctors and nurses elsewhere in the building. These independent doctors and nurses will specialise in the care of patients who are deteriorating and will assess the situation. For this to work, hospital wards will advertise the existence of Martha’s rule with posters and leaflets, enabling patients and their loved ones to contact the critical care teams directly to raise their concerns.

Kashmir Uppal, specialist Clinician Negligence Partner at Shoosmiths LLP said: “Martha’s rule will take away the stress of seeking a second opinion as it will no longer be seen as a challenge to the treating team.  If it is available as a matter of routine, the process of seeking a rapid review will be straightforward and uncontentious. A ‘fresh pair of eyes’ will be invaluable in spotting serious conditions which the treating team have not detected and is clearly in the best interests of the patient, the family and the clinicians. This will undoubtedly save lives.”



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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