Hornchurch Christmas dinner death: Della Callagher may not have survived even after immediate A&E admission

PUBLISHED: 16:40 12 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:47 13 January 2016

Della Callagher died two days after eating at the Railway Hotel. The cause of death is still being investigated

Della Callagher died two days after eating at the Railway Hotel. The cause of death is still being investigated


A woman who later died after being treated in the back of an ambulance while suffering from severe food poisoning “deteriorated very rapidly”, her inquest has heard.

On the second day of the inquest into the death of 46-year-old Della Callagher, who died two days after eating a Christmas dinner at The Railway hotel, Hornchurch, in 2012, the clinical team who attended her in her last hours gave evidence at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court.

Akin Idowu, consultant in emergency medicine for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), examined Mrs Callagher at the back of the ambulance at the end of his shift on Boxing Day just before 2pm, but discharged her.

He told the court the emergency department had “a capacity issue” at the time and the ambulance was an isolated cubicle where Mrs Callagher could be examined without the risk of infecting other patients as she had “severe diarrhoea”.

In February 2013, a meeting with the A&E department established examining patients at the back of an ambulance could have “adverse affects of the quality of the assessment”.

Mr Idowu, who was present at the meeting, explained “nobody expected this patient to die and so the meeting was a reaction to this case”.

David Platt QC, representing Mitchells and Butlers pub chain which owns the Railway, told Mr Idowu he continued to treat Mrs Callagher as if she had norovirus and therefore did not admit her into A&E, although it had been established she had food poisoning.

“I will suggest that Mr Idowu is deliberately concealing the way treated this patient,” he added and believed the examination could not have lasted more than 10 minutes.

But Mr Idowu told the court he was “outrages” and insisted Mrs Callagher was treated “according to clinical findings” and retrospectively he would not do anything differently.

Dr Javed Khan, who was leading Queen’s Hospital’s intensive care unit, assessed Mrs Callagher after she was admitted to the service a second time following a cardiac arrest just before 5pm.

He explained Mrs Callagher’s was “in severe multi-organ failure” and was dependent on drugs and machines for survival.

Dr Khan said he believed something happened between the first A&E assessment and her cardiac arrest because her condition “deteriorated very rapidly”.

He told the court he believed Mrs Callagher’s reduced volume of blood due to a lack of fluids in her body was more important in explaining the cause of her death than a lack of potassium, which also resulted from frequent diarrhoea and vomiting.

But he said even if Mrs Callagher had received intravenous fluids when she first came into A&E, her death was still a possibility.

“Infections can be so overwhelming that we cannot do anything... even with high level of care,” he said.

The inquest continues.

Read a full report in this week’s Recorder.

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