Hospitals in Boston and Lincoln to be among eight in region to roll out ‘Martha’s rule’ in major patient safety initiative

Pilgrim Hospital, Boston - one of two hospital sites in the county to take on board Martha's Rule.Pilgrim Hospital, Boston - one of two hospital sites in the county to take on board Martha's Rule.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston - one of two hospital sites in the county to take on board Martha's Rule.
The NHS has today announced that Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital will be among 143 sites in the country that will test and roll out Martha’s Rule in its first year.

They are among eight hospital sites in the East Midlands to take the step in patient safety protocols, following the announcement in February of NHS England funding for this financial year.

The initial target was to enrol at least 100 sites nationally, but due to significant interest from frontline clinicians this has been expanded, meaning this first phase of the programme will be in place at 143 locations across the country by March 2025.

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Evaluation of how the system works in these sites over the course of this year will inform proposals for Martha’s Rule to be expanded further across all acute hospitals, subject to future government funding, according to NHS England.

The purpose of Martha’s Rule is to provide a consistent and understandable way for patients and families to seek an urgent review if their or their loved one’s condition deteriorates and they are concerned this is not being acted upon.

The scheme is named after 13-year-old Martha Mills, who died from sepsis having been treated at King’s College Hospital, London, in 2021, due to a failure to escalate her to intensive care, and after her family’s concerns about her deteriorating condition were not responded to.

NHS England is working with Martha’s parents to develop materials to advertise and explain the initiative in hospitals across the country, to ensure it is something that all patients, staff, and their families can recognise.

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Martha’s Rule is to be made up of three components to ensure concerns about deterioration can be swiftly responded to.

Firstly, an escalation process will be available 24/7, advertised throughout the hospitals on posters and leaflets, enabling patients and families to contact a critical care outreach team that can swiftly assess a case and escalate care if necessary. Secondly, NHS staff will also have access to this same process if they have concerns about a patient’s condition.

Finally, alongside this, clinicians at participating hospitals will also formally record daily insights and information about a patient’s health directly from their families, ensuring any concerning changes in behaviour or condition noticed by the people who know the patient best are considered by staff.

Extensive campaigning by her parents Merope and Paul, supported by the cross-party think tank Demos, saw widespread support for a single system that allows patients or their families to trigger an urgent clinical review from a different team in the hospital if the patient’s condition is rapidly worsening and they feel they are not getting the care they need.

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Merope Mills and Paul Laity, Martha’s parents, said: "We are pleased that the roll-out of Martha's Rule is off to a flying start and that the need for it has been so widely recognised.

“It will save lives and encourage better, more open, communication on hospital wards, so that patients feel they are listened to, and partners in their healthcare."

Jess Sokolov, NHS England’s medical director for the Midlands said: “Rolling out Martha’s Rule to eight sites in the East Midlands later this financial year will represent one of the most important changes to patient care in recent years.

“This first phase is an important milestone which will allow staff, patients and families in these areas to immediately raise concerns and bring about an escalation in care in an easily recognisable and fast way.

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“While thankfully the need for escalation of care will hopefully only be needed in a limited number of cases, this three-step safety net has the opportunity to truly transform patient care and safety.”

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