Martha’s Rule: A new policy to amplify patient voice and improve safety in hospitals


Martha Mills died aged 13 in the summer of 2021 after sustaining a pancreatic injury from an everyday bike accident while on holiday with her family. The inquest into her death heard that she would likely have survived the sepsis that killed her had consultants made a decision to move her to intensive care sooner.

Her mother, Merope, later wrote about the failures in Martha’s care, and how she trusted the clinicians against her own instincts – they didn’t listen to her concerns and instead “managed” her. “We had such trust; we feel such fools,” she wrote. The piece prompted a huge reaction across the NHS and beyond. Many hospital trusts wrote to Martha’s parents, asking them to come and speak to their leadership teams about their experience, in order to help them improve patient safety in their hospitals.

This report is a response to that call from Martha Mills’s parents to rebalance the power between patients and medics with one purpose only: to improve patient safety. It comes amidst significant evidence that shows that failing to properly listen to patients and their families contributes to safety problems in the NHS, along with public awareness among citizens that the NHS can feel unresponsive at times.

Fundamentally, this is about culture change and improving the relationship between medics and patients. In the report we explore one specific policy change designed to redress the balance of power and nudge the culture change that is required: Martha’s Rule.