Why nurses must support patients' right to a second opinion

Martha’s rule means hospitals must soon have a process for raising concerns about patient care. We talk to the lead nurse of a service that has this in place

A medic examines a patient lying in a hospital bed
Picture: iStock

All hospitals are soon to need a system in place that allows patients, families and carers to request an urgent second opinion of care under Martha’s rule.

Some hospitals already have a process in place for raising concerns about patient care, including Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

This episode of the Nursing Standard podcast focuses on Call 4 Concern, a nurse-led service that already offers this approach at the hospital.


Journalist Erin Dean speaks to Alison Schofield, lead nurse for the critical care outreach team which runs the Call 4 Concern service, about how the service is run and the benefits it offers patients and their loved ones.

Ms Schofield explains there is a hotline that can used by worried relatives day or night, seven days a week. Their call will trigger an urgent clinical review of the patient.

She explains how the service works, the patient safety benefits and how much the service is used by families. She also offers advice for nurses who want to set up a similar service.

‘Start with a pilot, start small and look at your barriers across the trust – for us it was a simple thing like we had Wi-Fi black spots,’ Ms Schofield said.

Formal process for patients, families and carers to easily request a second opinion from senior medics

‘Get your nurses on board and make sure they are fully aware of it, as they will be promoting it, and work well with your nursing colleagues.’

Then health and social care secretary Steve Barclay announced in September last year that the government would move quickly to implement Martha’s rule in hospitals in England, giving patients the right to a second opinion.

The rule will provide a formal process for patients, families and carers to easily request a second opinion from senior medics in the same hospital, in the event of a suspected deterioration or serious concern.

The rule is named in memory of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who died of sepsis after doctors failed to admit her to intensive care.

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