Nursery staff didn't call 999 after baby toppled bucket of hot bleach on himself

The family of a baby who tipped a bucket of hot bleach over himself while at nursery say they are considering legal action after staff didn’t call an ambulance.

Blake Nilssen was in the ‘baby room’ at his nursery when he toppled over the unattended bucket while trying to stand up.

The corrosive liquid poured onto him, but when staff realised they did not seek medical advice.

They covered him in paper towels, but when they removed them it ripped off blisters that started to form.

His parents were called and informed he had tipped some water with a bit of bleach on himself so they should come and collect him.

They say they only realised how serious things were when they arrived an hour after the incident and were horrified to find Blake ‘screaming’ with reddened skin, burst blisters and a strong smell of bleach.

The Care Inspectorate upheld multiple complaints against Little Dreams nursery in Aberdeen and ordered bosses to make immediate changes due to the incident on November 4 last year.

Blake’s family accused staff of negligence for using boiling water and bleach in the first place, for leaving the bucket where a baby could easily reach it, and then for not calling 999.

His parents immediately took him to A&E when they saw how badly he was hurt, claiming that he ‘lost consciousness a few times’ on the way.

Once he arrived 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 as he stayed at ARI for observation.

The next day, he was put under general anaesthetic for a ‘skin scrub’, and his second degree burns were dressed in six layers of bandages to aid healing and prevent infection.

Devastated mum Ellie Johnson, 27, 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.’

Blake had been attending the nursery since April three days per week at a cost of £52 per day.

Ellie, who runs her own beauty business, dropped Blake off at 9.30am and was told to collect her son at at 3.45pm.

‘They said the water had a bit of bleach in it but that was it,’ she said. ‘There was no urgency in their voice and they didn’t say the water was boiling.

‘We opened the door and heard the most horrific screaming.

‘It was chilling. Then we realised it came from our little boy.

‘There’s no words to describe the fear we felt at that moment.’

The parents saw Blake in a room separate from the other children, stripped to his nappy and vest with his limbs covered in cling film and paper towels.

Ellie, from Aberdeen, added: ‘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.

‘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.’

Blake’s father Daryl Nilssen, 31, an offshore worker, added: ‘The whole situation was totally avoidable, should never have happened and cannot be allowed to happen again.’

Ellie added: ‘Blake is now on the road to recovery but this road is a long one.

‘His physical scars will likely be permanent – we just pray the mental ones wont – so our focus now is making sure Blake is happy and healthy.

‘But we still don’t have answers to the most obvious question – why was a bucket with boiling bleach left in a baby room?

‘Daryl and I really debated about next steps but we felt a sense of duty to highlight what happened so parents and other nurseries can be more mindful.’

The couple made 10 complaints to the Care Inspectorate. It sparked an immediate investigation and on 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 also 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.

Other requirements included improvements to nursery housekeeping, awareness of whistleblowing policies and the ongoing training of staff.

Neil Davidson, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors in Aberdeen, is now supporting the young family.

He said: ‘What happened to Blake is horrendous. The trauma he and his parents experienced will endure for a long time so I praise their courage in speaking out.

‘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.

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

A spokesperson for Little Dreams nursery said in a statement: ‘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.’

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