From April, participating hospitals in the UK will be offered funding from the government for a new scheme called Martha’s Rule following the preventable death of thirteen-year-old Martha Mills.

The government has announced they are backing plans for the scheme, which will trigger an urgent clinical review from a different team where a patient is in hospital, are deteriorating quickly and their loves ones feel that they are not getting the care they need. This backing has been born out of a campaign from the parents of Martha Mills.

Martha was a healthy 13-year-old child who was admitted to King’s College Hospital in South London following an accident on her bicycle, where she slipped on her handlebars and injured her pancreas on her bike. She sadly passed away from sepsis.

Whilst in hospital, her parents observed her condition progressively deteriorating. When attempting to flag her abnormal condition, they were dismissed by the hospital.

Martha’s mother quoted that when she raised her concerns on three separate occasions to different consultants, she was told that Martha would be fine and that it was just a normal infection that she had.

Ms Mills commented in an interview with the BBC:

“And when I had my doubts, still, I had nowhere to go. There was no ripcord to pull. I just had to trust the doctors.”

Tragically, Martha’s parents’ cries for help were continuously ignored by the hospital until it was too late. Martha developed sepsis from her injury and unfortunately passed away one month after being admitted.

An inquest found that with better care and that if her parent’s concerns were taken seriously, with Martha being moved to intensive care sooner, Martha would have most likely survived.

Martha’s preventable passing triggered this successful campaign, which will hopefully only need to be used in a small number of cases; however, it could save lives.

The campaign aims to legitimise the concerns of those closest to seriously ill patients when raised. Often close friends and family know best when a patient is not acting like themselves, which could indicate a decline in health.

Rapid reviews, upon request, will be carried out by a senior nurse or doctor within the critical care outreach team who specialises in the care of deteriorating patients.

Additionally, medics under Martha’s Rule will have to formally record families’ concerns regarding the patient’s behaviour and condition.

Martha’s Rule has been met with scepticism by some in the medical field, who say that the issue can’t be resolved so long as the current workforce crisis carries on. Doctors are currently overstretched, which makes it difficult to spot a patient’s deterioration.

Martha’s mother, Ms Mills admitted that before this campaign, it was difficult to challenge doctors, and often people wouldn’t know how to go about asking for a second opinion. Her hope with the new scheme is that it will save lives, meaning that her daughter had not died “in vain”.

The scheme will be evaluated over the year following its rollout, with hopes that it will extend to all acute hospitals.

Adaptations to the scheme for mental health trusts and community hospitals are also being considered by the NHS.

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