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Government backs Martha’s rule

Government backs Martha’s rule

The UK government has backed a campaign to introduce “Martha’s rule” in England, which will make it easier for patients and their families to get a second medical opinion if they feel their concerns are not being taken seriously by hospital staff. 

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said this morning that ministers were “committed” to the measure and the case for it was “compelling”. 

It follows a campaign by the parents of Martha Mills, who died in 2021 shortly before her 14th birthday. She had sustained a pancreatic injury from a bike accident on a family holiday and later developed sepsis; an inquest found she would probably have survived if doctors at King’s College Hospital had transferred her sooner to intensive care. 

Martha’s mother, Merope Mills, welcomed the announcement this morning and said Barclay was prepared to allocate funding to the initiative. 

She told Tortoise that introducing the measure was “complicated but doable”. “I’m hoping it’s going to save lives,” she said. 

“Some hospitals have already contacted me and said, ‘We don’t need to wait for this to happen. We would like to do this now.’ And I’m pleased that they feel that they can take the initiative,” she added. 

A similar measure has been introduced in Australia, known as Ryan’s rule. It was brought in by Queensland Health after the death of toddler Ryan Saunders from an undiagnosed streptococcal infection and allows families to call a dedicated phone number and ask for a second medical opinion. 

On Thursday, Barclay told the BBC: “I particularly want to give much more credence to the voice of patients, and I think a key part of this measure is ensuring that patients feel heard and can get a second opinion.”

He said he wanted a “degree of standardisation” in how the measure is rolled out and had asked NHS England to work “at pace” on delivering it. 

A spokeswoman at King’s has said the trust remains “deeply sorry that we failed Martha when she needed us most”.

Photograph Getty Images