The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is to introduce a patient safety initiative named Martha’s Rule across hospitals in England.

Due to be implemented in April, the programme will provide patients and their families with the ability to request round-the-clock urgent review from an independent critical care team if the patient’s condition worsens.

The initiative builds upon NHS England’s Worry and Concern pilot schemes, which were initiated last year across seven NHS trusts to evaluate methods for escalating patient and family concerns.

Martha’s Rule will require healthcare staff deployed at participating hospitals to document daily updates on a patient’s health provided by their families, ensuring any changes in condition are promptly noted.

The programme will initially be introduced at a minimum of 100 NHS sites.

NHS teams will evaluate the functioning of this rule during 2024/25 and consider further expansion across all acute hospitals, subject to government funding.

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The introduction of Martha’s Rule was prompted by the campaigning efforts of Merope and Paul Mills, whose 13-year-old daughter Martha died of sepsis at King’s College Hospital in 2021.

Mr and Mrs Mills attribute their daughter’s death to her not being moved to intensive care and their concerns about her condition not being responded to promptly.

NHS chief Amanda Pritchard said: “NHS teams have been piloting ways to better identify and respond in these cases over the last year, and the roll-out of a national programme to give patients and families 24/7 access to a rapid clinical review will help ensure that those experiencing acute deterioration can be identified and treated much more quickly.”

The Martha’s Rule initiative follows the introduction of a Paediatric Early Warning System, which allows clinicians to monitor potential deterioration in children.

These initiatives aim to enhance the NHS’ use of data and help staff manage patient deterioration while increasing involvement from patients, families and carers.