Early warning NHS system to prevent child deaths
PARENTS who fear their children are becoming seriously ill in hospital are now guaranteed that doctors will act on their concerns.
The NHS is adopting the National Paediatric Early Warning Score to track the vital signs of babies and children.
But even if this raises no concerns, parents who believe their child is getting worse can ensure their case is escalated immediately.
The change in national policy is the first step towards a ‘Martha’s rule’ to prevent a repeat of mistakes which led to 13-year- old Martha Mills dying after doctors failed to admit her to intensive care.
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the NHS also hoped to give concerned parents a right to a second opinion on their child’s condition as part of the new policy.
He added: ‘We know that nobody can spot the signs of a child getting sicker better than their parents, which is why we have ensured that the concerns of families and carers are right at the heart of this new system with immediate escalation in a child’s care if they raise concerns, and plans to incorporate the right to a second opinion as the system develops further.’
Martha, who suffered a pancreatic injury, died in 2021 after developing sepsis while under the care of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in south London. Her parents say they raised concerns about her deteriorating condition.
A coroner ruled last year that Martha would most likely have survived if doctors had identified warning signs and transferred her to intensive care earlier. The trust has since apologised for mistakes.
Health minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘It will be reassuring to families that as part of this system, parents will be heard.’
The new system for doctors and nurses treating children will track potential deterioration in a child’s condition on a chart.
While many hospitals already have similar systems in place, this change will provide a single, standardised process. It is understood the policy will be in place nationally by the end of next year.
‘The right to a second opinion’