Coroner slams social services for ignoring health advice after baby death

A coroner investigating the death of a baby girl who was suffocated by her sleeping dad has slammed social services for ignoring health staff advice and allowing her to go home with her heroin addict parents.

Four-week old baby girl Mia Tessa Greenoff-Davies died on July 19 last year after falling asleep with her dad, Andrew Greenoff – who had already been warned by hospital staff about drifting off with his daughter on his chest.

Yet despite the fears of drug liaison midwife Janet Woodhouse that the couple were not always aware of Mia’s needs, a recommendation of health staff that a parenting workshop might help was ignored by Kirklees Council, and the vulnerable baby was allowed to go home with the couple.

An inquest held at Huddersfield Magistrates Court on Wednesday heard that tragic Mia’s mum, Nicola Davies, woke to find her daughter face down on a pillow, having fallen asleep on her dad’s chest. Despite being rushed to hospital she later died.

Mr Greenoff and his partner, of Huddersfield, were both heroin addicts who had been prescribed methadone to help them kick their habit, but one side effect of the treatment was that it made the couple unresponsive.

Ms Woodhouse told the hearing: “Both Nicola and Andrew were not always aware of the baby’s needs. There were issues around co-sleeping in the hospital as Andrew did once fall asleep face-to-face with the baby on his chest.”

She said that concerned hospital staff could not wake Andrew and he was later told never to sleep with the baby on his chest again because of the risk posed to his little girl.

Fearful health staff recommended Nicola and her baby should go on a 23,000 pounds 12-week mother and baby course to assess their needs day and night.

Baffled Coroner Roger Whittaker said: “Having heard the evidence this morning, the views of a very well-experienced drug liaison midwife, Janet Woodhouse, were over-ruled and the child was allowed to return home with her parents.

“I think even the parents in hindsight would have accepted one of the parenting workshops. I shall be writing to the local authority to point out this particular problem and ask them to deal with the issues in a different way.”

Mr Whittaker asked Catherine Harrison, community manager for Kirklees Council, why the newborn had been allowed to go home with her mum and dad.

Ms Harrison said it was about a “balance of risk” and it was decided the couple would be able to cope with Mia, though a health professional would check up on them each day.

The inquest also heard how Nicola’s other two children were being looked after by her aunt because she feared her drug problem was spiralling out of control.

When she became pregnant again, Ms Woodhouse knew it was necessary to monitor her closely.

A spokesman for Kirkless Council said: “The sympathies of all involved in this sad case are with the family at this time. This was an extremely sad case in which a four-week-old girl died as a result of co-sleeping with her father.

“As the Serious Case Review confirms, there was no evidence of physical injury, systematic neglect or of the professionals involved showing a lack of due care and concern with regard to protective arrangements.

“Both parents were at the time of the babys birth not using heroin but following a methadone programme under medical supervision.

“The parents were working with all professionals and the baby was subject to a multi-agency Child Protection plan, which included daily visits by professionals to the family home, and that between the date of discharge from hospital and her death, professionals did not express any concerns about either parents ability to care for the baby.

“The Serious Case Review highlights that co-sleeping as a potential risk had been identified and the parents had been advised accordingly.

“Tragically, the little girl died as the result of a single incident which could only have been avoided by continuous monitoring of the family or the child’s removal from her parents’ care.”

Mr Whittaker recorded a verdict of accidental death from asphyxia.