UK Sepsis Trust applauds Martha's Rule rollout in England following teen’s death

At least 100 NHS trusts in England are expected to bring in the right to a second opinion initially.

  • Martha Mills died aged 13 in 2021 after failures to identify and properly treat a case of sepsis that developed while she was in King’s College hospital in London
  • She developed sepsis after sustaining a laceration to her pancreas from a bike accident on a family holiday in Wales
  • Last year Martha’s mother, Merope Mills, helped think tank Demos write a report calling on NHS England to urgently put in place ‘Martha’s rule’, which she said would “effectively formalise the idea of asking for a second opinion”

Patients and their families in England will soon have the option to request a rapid second opinion if they are concerned about a condition worsening, thanks to the nationwide NHS rollout of Martha’s Rule.

Martha’s Rule, named after a young sepsis victim, aims to provide a swift escalation process for urgent review by a different critical care team in hospitals across the country, and will be available 24/7.

The initiative comes as a response to the pressing need for improved patient advocacy and empowerment within the healthcare system, following campaigning by Martha’s mother, Merope Mills.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Merope said: “We’re really pleased that implementation is going to begin in April because we believe beyond anything else that it will save lives, that families and patients have a real value, a role to play in hospitals.

“Sometimes doctors are incredibly overstretched and they cannot always spot the same changes in a patient that family and patients themselves can, so we feel this is a real resource and we think it will help rather than hinder a busy, overstretched workforce.”

UK Sepsis Trust’s Founder & Joint CEO Dr Ron Daniels said: “As a charity dealing with and offering support to those affected by sepsis including the bereaved, we welcome the news that Martha’s Rule is to be rolled out nationally.

“The themes highlighted by Martha’s case — of families feeling that they’re not being listened to — are common.

“Whilst a second opinion is not the one and only solution — avoidable harm will continue to occur — it is an important part of the broader solution and will help to prevent many families enduring the same pain as Martha’s family.”

Martha’s Rule allows patients and their families to voice concerns and seek additional medical opinions when they feel their care needs are not adequately met.

This crucial step aims to address instances where patients experience rapidly deteriorating health and perceive a gap in the care they receive.

Martha’s Rule represents a significant step forward in patient-centred care and underscores the importance of proactive measures to ensure timely and appropriate medical interventions.

By empowering patients and families to advocate for their healthcare needs, Martha’s Rule aligns with UKST’s mission to prevent sepsis-related harm and support those affected by this life-threatening condition.

Sepsis claims 48,000 lives in the UK each year, thousands of which are preventable.

Families affected by sepsis can get support from UKST.