Why the NHS needs Martha’s rule – podcast

When Martha Mills fell off her bike on a family holiday in Wales in 2021, she damaged her pancreas and needed treatment in hospital. It was serious, beyond the expertise of the local hospital, so the 13-year-old was transferred to King’s College hospital in London.

The medics at King’s, one of the UK’s leading teaching hospitals, were reassuring. Although the injury was serious, it was treatable and Martha could expect to make a full recovery and be back at school within weeks.

But as her mother, Merope Mills, tells Nosheen Iqbal, by the end of the summer Martha was dead, after a series of shocking mistakes having been made in her treatment. Doctors treating Martha told Merope she had “just a normal infection” and did not escalate her care to the intensive care unit despite the increasing and vocal concerns of her parents. She died just after a bank holiday weekend having gone into septic shock. The inquest into her death heard that she probably would have survived had consultants made a decision to move her to intensive care sooner.

Today, after a campaign by Merope and her husband, Paul Laity, the NHS is announcing it will implement “Martha’s rule” at more than 100 hospital sites in England from April. It will give patients and their families access to an urgent review from senior medics in the same hospital if a patient’s condition is deteriorating rapidly and they feel their concerns are not being listened to.

Martha Mills

Photograph: Mills/Laity family photograph/PA

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