New NHS Children’s Health Warning System

New NHS Children's Health Warning System
LLB (Hons) Nimish Patel
Legally reviewed by: LLB (Hons) Nimish Patel Updated: In: Medical Negligence

New Children’s Health Warning System

NHS England is implementing a new nationwide early-warning system. This system has been designed to help healthcare professionals promptly identify and treat a deteriorating paediatric patient, while considering the concerns of parents and caregivers.

The new system places parents and caregivers at its core. It involves the continuous monitoring of indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels on a chart. However, should a parent express anxiety that their child’s condition is more severe than indicated on the chart, healthcare intervention will be quickly escalated.

The NHS will be rolling out a leaflet and video content for parents, letting them know how to communicate concerns to healthcare staff and encouraging them to escalate if needed.

Martha’s Rule – Establishing Uniform Protocol

The initiative, often referred to as “Martha’s rule” after a tragic incident involving a teenage patient, seeks to establish a uniform protocol in hospitals. Prof Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, emphasises the importance of family and caregiver input in the new system. He asserts that no one is better equipped to recognise the signs of a deteriorating child than their parents. Therefore, the concerns of families and caregivers are given utmost priority, leading to an immediate escalation in the child’s care if they express concerns. The system also intends to incorporate the right to a second opinion as it evolves further.

The Right to a Second Opinion

This nationwide rollout is a response to the recommendation made by the patient safety commissioner, Dr. Henrietta Hughes, to introduce Martha’s rule in all hospitals across England. The rule guarantees patients and their families the right to an urgent second opinion and a prompt review by a critical care team if they are apprehensive about the patient’s condition. Martha Mills, who tragically passed away due to sepsis, could have been saved with better care, according to an inquest. Her parents have been advocating for the right to a swift second opinion when they believe their concerns are not being adequately addressed.

Life Saving Impact of New Children’s Health Warning System

Health Minister Maria Caulfield believes that the new Paediatric Early Warning System, developed in collaboration with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Nursing over a three-year period, will have a life-saving impact. She highlights the importance of granting parents a voice in their child’s care.

It’s worth noting that standardised pediatric warning systems already exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Comments from Nimish Patel, Medical Negligence Solicitor

“The issue post pandemic is the loss of systems and resources available at the hospital. Support systems for the family of relatives or loved ones are not in place like they were pre-pandemic. Hospitals are no longer offering grief counselling referrals as they no longer have the same time and resources to provide adequate care the way it was envisioned in the NICE guidelines. As a result, hospitals are unable to smoothly guide patients through the process with the support they vitally need in a difficult time.”

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