Martha’s Rule: How does it affect those with RA or JIA?

29 February 2024

What is it? 

Martha’s Rule or ‘Martha’s Law’ is referring to a new patient safety initiative being enacted by NHS England in April 2024. This was announced in February 2024 and is being colloquially called by the media the “right to a second opinion”. 

The Rule being proposed, but not yet finalised, is to allow parents, family or carers access to a rapid review from a critical care outreach team if they feel that their loved one is deteriorating and requires critical care or intensive support. This is being implemented in a staged approach across around 100 hospitals in England. For more information, click here.

How might this impact on someone with RA or JIA? 

It is very unlikely that this will be relevant for our service users or individuals calling into our Helpline unless they require critical care services. 

Whilst the media is referring to this Rule as “the right to a second opinion”: this is quite misleading and not accurate. Martha’s Rule is for situations where a patient is requiring critical care i.e. potentially life threatening situations and so is not applicable to routine or outpatient services.

What are the current rules for second opinions generally? 

Whilst all patients are able to ask for a second opinion, There is no legal or automatic ‘right’ to a second opinion. Whilst there is no obligation in any of the four nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) for the NHS to accept a patient’s request, they should consider the request and most services will allow a second opinion. 

As a separate point, if an individual has concerns about the treatment or service they are receiving they are able to issue a formal complaint with the hospital or trust or access PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) who can guide and support concerns raised by patients about hospital services. For more information on PALS, click here.