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What is Martha’s rule and what will it mean for Parents and Families?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Martha’s Rule is a proposed change to hospitals in England and Wales, which aims to provide patients and their families with the power to seek a second medical opinion, where they feel their concerns have been dismissed.

This change has come about, following the tragic death of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who sadly lost her life after she developed sepsis, following an accident on a family holiday where she fell off her bike.

The fall led Martha to land on the handlebars of her bike, which caused injuries to her pancreas, unfortunately as a complication, she developed sepsis. Martha’s parents raised their concerns regarding Martha’s condition and continuing decline, on multiple occasions to medical staff.

Despite this, doctors continued to dismiss them and failed to notice the signs of sepsis, which was sadly diagnosed too late. It was noted by the Coroner during an inquest, that Martha would have likely survived her injuries if she had been appropriately treated and referred to intensive care promptly.

Martha sadly lost her life far too young and unnecessarily due to the doctors failings to consider and listen to her parents’ concerns. Since her tragic loss, Martha’s mother, Merope, has been campaigning for change in Hospitals.

This rule will allow patients, parents, and carers to request a second medical opinion from experts within the same hospital if they have concerns regarding their current care. This will create a formal procedure that gives everyone a right to seek help from a different medical professional if they feel they are being ignored or their condition is declining.

This rule aims to empower patients and their families. On many occasions, it has sadly been seen that our blind faith in doctors can sometimes be to our own detriment and this rule will hopefully effect a systematic change to help save lives.

In practice, the hope will be that it becomes a standardised and formal right for all patients or families, which will soon become part of the normal experience throughout NHS England Hospitals.

One of the concerns that has been expressed by doctors, with this rule coming into force, is that the system will be abused and overused. However, it has been introduced in the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust and they only received 37 calls in their first year, some of which had life altering effects.

It also aims to follow a similar procedure already in place and successful in Queensland, Australia, called Ryan’s Rule, which came into effect following similar circumstances.

Martha’s rule has subsequently been fully supported by the Health Secretary, Stephen Barclay, who has confirmed he is committed to implementing the initiative and is ready to allocate funds to make it happen. It is hopeful that doctors will welcome the views of families and patients, as well as the opinions of their colleagues and other medical experts.

If you feel like your or a loved one’s concerns regarding medical treatment have been overlooked or not taken seriously, get in touch with our medical negligence team, who will be happy to discuss this with you further.

Charlotte Toms


Charlotte Toms

Trainee Solicitor

Charlotte is a Trainee Solicitor in the Private Client team at our Kettering office.