Hornchurch Christmas dinner death: A&E care ‘unlikely to have saved mother’

PUBLISHED: 15:45 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:45 14 January 2016

Della Callagher died two days after eating at the Railway Hotel, in Hornchurch. The coroner ruled her death could not have been prevented even with earlier hospital treatments

Della Callagher died two days after eating at the Railway Hotel, in Hornchurch. The coroner ruled her death could not have been prevented even with earlier hospital treatments


It is unlikely that immediate emergency care would have saved a woman who died after suffering severe food poisoning from a Christmas dinner, an expert told her inquest.

The three-day inquest into the death of 46-year-old Della Callagher, who died at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, on December 27, 2012, two days after eating a turkey dinner at The Railway Hotel, Hornchurch, started on Monday.

Mrs Callagher, of Hornchurch, had diarrhoea and vomiting for more than 14 hours after she ate a turkey dinner at the pub. She was discharged from hospital after being examined in an ambulance on Boxing Day, without being taken to A&E.

The mum-of-one was admitted later that day after her condition deteriorated.

Dr Stephen Metcalf, a consultant in acute medicine, told Walthamstow Coroner’s Court discharging Mrs Callagher was “unequivocally not safe”, although the examination was carried out “with the best intentions”.

But he added: “There is nothing we could have done to stop the infection.”

“This is a very rare event,” 
he added.

Dr Ian Calder, a consultant pathologist, who conducted the post-mortem autopsy, concluded the primary cause of Mrs Callagher’s death was reduced blood flow to her organs, which caused her bowel to die, and the infection caused by the poisonous bacteria in the food.

Akin Idowu, the lead clinician for emergency care at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), discharged Mrs Callagher after examining her in an ambulance at 2pm on Boxing Day.

At the time, Queen’s Hospital’s A&E department had a “capacity issue”, he told the inquest, and staff were reluctant to admit patients with diarrhoea or vomiting, because of the risk of infections spreading.

Mr Idowu said there were “no red flags” which led him to believe Mrs Callagher would not improve within 48 hours and he thought the ambulance was the place where Mrs Callagher could receive the quickest assessment.

A report read out at the inquest stated that in February 2013, A&E staff hosting a department meeting concluded that examining patients in an ambulance could have “adverse effects on the quality of the assessment”, which Mr Idowu confirmed to the coroner.

Dr Javed Khan, who was leading Queen’s Hospital’s intensive care unit at the time, assessed Mrs Callagher after she was admitted to the hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest just before 5pm on Boxing Day.

He told the inquest she had presented symptoms of “severe multi-organ failure” and was wholly dependent on life support.

Mrs Callagher died at about 8.30 the following morning.

Last January, The Railway Hotel’s chef Mehmet Kaya and manager Ann-Marie McSweeney were jailed for perverting the course of justice. The pair had fabricated food safety records.

Coroner Nadia Persaud will give her verdict on January 26.

Read a full report in tomorrow’s Recorder.

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