'It's OK to ask' - Calls for Welsh 'Martha's Rule' backed by grieving mum

Skyla Whiting
Skyla Whiting was just four years old when she died of Sepsis Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Calls for a Welsh equivalent of 'Martha's Rule' – which allows people to seek a second medical opinion about the care of a sick relative – have been backed by a grieving mum.

Skyla Whiting died of sepsis in 2018 when she was just four years old. Her mother, Amy, who lives near Pontypool in Torfaen, says concerns about her daughter's condition were ignored by medics at Neville Hall hospital.

"She became more and more unwell. She had a raging temperature, she had a rash all over her, she had an awful-sounding cough. Her temperature was up over 40.

"We absolutely begged for the right treatment. We went to the nurses' station probably 15 times through the night."

An inquest into Skyla's death two years ago found that opportunities to save her were missed by doctors.

Now, Amy is backing calls to empower patients and relatives to seek a second opinion in cases where they're concerned about the deteriorating condition of a loved one.

The "Call4Concern" scehme has been operating at Ysbyty Gwynedd for 18 months

Such a scheme – called 'Martha's Rule' – is due to be rolled out in hospitals across England next month.

It would offer round-the-clock access to a rapid review from a separate care team if someone is worried about a love one's condition.

It currently doesn't apply here in Wales, however, there is a similar service at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

The 'Call4Concern' scheme allows adult patients and their families to flag concerns independently.

Eirian Edwards, the advanced nurse practitioner who runs the scheme, said it was proving "popular" with staff.

"It's a patient safety initiative. It gives our patients and relatives a voice, and gives them an extra safety net, really," she said.

"It makes them part of their own care. It's not a complaints service - it's for people to raise a clinical concern."

The service has been in place at Ysbyty Gwynedd for 18 months.

If someone is worried a relative has deteriorated, they can call a switchboard and an experienced nurse will come and assess them.

Doctors involved in the scheme say it should be part of all hospital care.

Dr Chris Subbe wants to encourage people to use the scheme, saying "It's OK to ask."

Dr Chris Subbe, an acute physician at Ysbyty Gwynedd, says he gets approximately two calls a week from worried relatives. He said some remained concerned about "dropping nurses in it."

"At the moment, we're conscious that not everyone might feel that this invitation is for them, and so we really want to encourage them and say 'it's ok to ask,'" he said.

Other hospitals in Wales are expected to follow Ysbyty Gwynedd's lead.

The scheme has already been introduced by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB) recently.

Back in Torfaen, Amy says a Wales-wide offering of the service would be welcome.

"We would really appreciate something similar to Martha's Rule, so we could get our children seen by another team," she said.

"Skyla was the most beautiful girl. She had a beautiful soul."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said that Call4Concern "has seen positive steps toward improving patient safety."

They added: “We are committed to ensuring the voices of patients and their loved ones are heard and we are working with all NHS organisations to identify the best patient and family-initiated escalation model to ensure improved patient safety across all of the NHS."

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