Nursery staff failed to call 999 after baby burned with boiling bleach

Blake Nilssen's parents arrived at their little boy's nursery hearing 'chilling' screams of pain.

Play icon Digby Brown via Handout

Staff failed to call an ambulance after a baby suffered severe burns in a horrific incident at his Aberdeen nursery.

Blake Nilssen was ten months old when he was burned by boiling bleach after toppling an unattended cleaning bucket while trying to stand up at the Little Dreams Nursery.

The baby’s mum Ellie Johnson had dropped him off at 9.30am but at 3.45pm was told to collect her son as he “managed to tip a bucket of water on himself”.

“There was no urgency in their voice and they didn’t say the water was boiling.”

Mum Ellie Johnson holding baby Blake.Digby Brown via Handout
Mum Ellie Johnson holding baby Blake.
Advertisement

When Ellie and partner Daryl Nilssen arrived at the nursery they heard “the most horrific screaming”.

“It was chilling. Then we realised it came from our little boy,” the 27-year-old mum said, “There are no words to describe the fear we felt at that moment.”

Blake had second-degree burns and his suffering was made worse when staff covered him in paper towels which then ripped off blisters when they removed them.

Instead of calling for an ambulance, the baby was denied treatment for an hour while they waited for his parents to collect him.

Dad Daryl Nilssen and mum Ellie Johnson with baby Blake and his brother Tyler.Digby Brown via Handout
Dad Daryl Nilssen and mum Ellie Johnson with baby Blake and his brother Tyler.
Advertisement

Blake was injured on Thursday, November 4 in the baby room of the Little Dreams Nursery on Bon Accord Street.

When his parents came into the nursery they found Blake in a separate room to the other children stripped to his nappy and vest with his limbs covered in cling film and paper towels.

“He was screaming, his skin was red all over and there was an overwhelming smell of bleach with liquid running down his legs and arms from burst blisters,” Ellie said.

“I screamed at the staff, grabbed Blake and drove to A&E. Blake screamed so hard he lost consciousness a few times on the way, literally passing out from the pain.”

Dad Daryl Nilssen and mum Ellie Johnson with baby Blake and his brother Tyler.Digby Brown via Handout
Dad Daryl Nilssen and mum Ellie Johnson with baby Blake and his brother Tyler.

At Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, medics repeatedly rinsed Blake in a special shower room over 90 minutes and monitored the pH of his skin.

A plastic surgeon burst the blisters and treated them with aloe vera gel before bandaging affected areas.

Blake was also given small doses of morphine to ease the pain and help him sleep.

Advertisement

The next day the baby was put under general anaesthetic for a skin scrub – his burns were dressed in six layers of bandages to aid healing and prevent infection.

Dad Daryl Nilssen with baby Blake.Digby Brown via Handout
Dad Daryl Nilssen with baby Blake.

“Seeing your child in that kind of pain is something you’re never prepared for and it’s raised wider problems as we now worry about who we can trust next with our son,” the baby’s dad said.

The couple made ten complaints to the Care Inspectorate sparking an immediate investigation and on Thursday, November 11 an on-site inspection was carried out.

Investigators – who gave prior warning of the visit – said staff gave “differing accounts of what happened” which also differed from the incident forms.

Inspectors described nursery supervision as “ineffective” and criticised their use of paper towels and failing to call an ambulance.

The report noted: “It is our considered view that the inactions taken by the staff may have caused further complications to Blake’s injuries.

“Staff should have contacted the emergency services, immediately. They would have been able to give the right advice while awaiting an ambulance which would have minimised the pain and discomfort Blake must have been experiencing.”

The Care Inspectorate also raised concerns about staff not challenging decisions made by management.

The report added: “A qualified practitioner did not challenge the use of scalding water boiled from a kettle, and bleach in a bucket as dangerous despite telling us that she thought it was.”

Eight requirements were ordered against the nursery including making sure staff are first-aid trained and aware of emergency procedures.

Mum Ellie said: “Blake faces being scarred for life and now we have a constant fear of knowing who to trust to take care of our son in the future.

“Little Dreams Nursery should be closed. This is utterly indefensible.”

The family said it is considering legal action and issued an urgent warning to other parents over fears of a repeat tragedy.

Neil Davidson, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors in Aberdeen, said what had happened to Blake was “horrendous”.

“As parents we place the highest trust in those who care for our children and the Care Inspectorate quite rightly demanded improvements at this nursery,” he said.

“We will do all we can to help this young family recover and move on following this awful incident.”

Little Dreams Nursery said it takes the safety of children “extremely seriously” and fully investigated the causes of the incident.

However, it said it had been disappointed by aspects of the Care Inspectorate’s report and was seeking to appeal the findings.

A statement read: “This was a very serious incident which was clearly deeply distressing for the child involved and the family.

“We take the safety of all the children in our care extremely seriously and whilst this was an isolated incident, we have fully investigated the causes. We reported the incident to the Care Inspectorate and worked with them to put in place new training and operational practices.

“We have been disappointed by some aspects of the reports from the Care Inspectorate and have appealed the findings, these discussions are still ongoing.

“However, this appeal process does not detract from the focus we have at the nursery to ensure we are operating safely.”

A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “This was a distressing incident and our thoughts are with the child affected and their family.

“We have investigated and upheld a complaint in relation to this matter and the information is on our website.

“We have identified areas for improvement which we will monitor closely and follow up to check progress and ensure these are implemented.

“Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs. Anyone with a concern about a care service can contact us on 0345 600 9527.”