DUDLEY’S Russells Hall Hospital is among 143 hospital sites across the country set to roll out Martha’s Rule to help increase patient safety.

The borough’s main hospital, run by the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, is one of 13 NHS sites in the West Midlands that will test and roll out the scheme in its first year.

The aim of Martha’s Rule is to give 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 responded to.

It 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 fell on deaf ears.

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

Diane Wake, chief executive at the Dudley Group, said: “We’re pleased to be amongst the first NHS Trusts in the West Midlands to be rolling out Martha’s Rule legislation. “Patient care and patient safety are of the utmost importance to us here in Dudley and we are proud to have this new initiative in place.”

The roll out of the initiative follows an 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.

Evaluation of how it works at the 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.

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 have access to the same process if they have concerns about a patient’s condition.

Finally, clinicians at participating hospitals will 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 Martha’s 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.

Jess Sokolov, NHS England’s medical director for the Midlands said: “Rolling out Martha’s Rule to 13 sites in the West 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 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.

“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.”

Sandwell General Hospital, run by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, will also trial the initiative.