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Tragic diet pills woman Edel Houston 'let down by health system'

By Spphie Inge

Published 28/10/2016

Edel Houston died after taking diet pills
Edel Houston died after taking diet pills
Edel's parents Anthony and Rhonda leaving the inquest into her death

The care received by a young disabled woman after she overdosed on diet pills was “deeply unsatisfactory”, a coroner has found.

Edel Houston (23), of Glebe Road East, Newtownabbey, died of caffeine toxicity and aspiration pneumonia at Antrim Area Hospital on June 2, 2015 after waiting over 45 minutes to be examined by hospital staff.

The day before she had taken a large quantity of diet pills which she had bought over the internet. These contained high levels of caffeine — equivalent to 200 cups of coffee.

Afterwards Edel — who had developed an eating disorder after being bullied at school — began complaining of palpitations and difficulty in breathing and started vomiting. Her family called an ambulance at about 12.15am.

She was found to be suffering from an abnormally rapid heart rate of 140 beats per minute, which later increased to 180.

But paramedic Alastair Drummond told the inquest he did not sent out an alert to the hospital en route as he hadn’t believed she required urgent attention.

They arrived at the hospital at 1.01am and Mr Drummond remained there for a further 20 minutes.

But Edel was never triaged by hospital staff and her heartbeat was not monitored.

During the inquest, triage nurse Ruel Carreon said he did not appreciate the seriousness of her condition and was busy attending to other patients.

After waiting on a hospital trolley for over 45 minutes, Edel had a seizure. She later went into cardiac arrest and died.

Following her death a Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report was filed by the Northern Trust outlining the failings made by paramedics and nurses at the hospital and making recommendations.

Coroner Joe McCrisken concluded that serious failings in Edel’s care were made by both the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Trust.

“The care of Edel Houston was deeply unsatisfactory,” he said.

Furthermore, he added, the triage nurse failed to ask the paramedic any questions about Edel when she arrived and did not even bother to read the ambulance report form.

He described that failure as “frankly inexplicable”.

“Edel Houston was left in a corridor without any attention till she suffered a cardiac arrest. That is not how the health service should operate in 2016 in this country.”

After considering the statements given by doctors at the inquest, he said that it was impossible to say that Edel’s death could have been prevented.

But Edel’s parents believe their “beautiful daughter” could have survived.

Speaking after the inquest, Rhonda Houston said: “We believe that if the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Antrim Area Hospital had delivered even the most basic of care when she took ill, she would be with us today.”

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