Moray Council has been forced to apologise after a school pupil was so badly sunburned they had to be bandaged from “thigh to toe” – and then get on a bus for 36 hours.
The pupil was taken to hospital with sunburn and was heavily bandaged up, making mobility such an issue a wheelchair was needed. But although the local authority had made Child A’s pupils aware of the situation, they did not look at another way of getting them home other than the bus.
Yesterday, the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) ordered the council to apologise to the child and their parents for failing to explore other options to get the youngster home.
The watchdog also insisted staff should be made aware of dealing with complaints in an “empathetic” manner in future.
The secondary school pupil, identified only as “child A”, was “badly sunburned” while with classmates abroad.
An investigation by SPSO found a full risk assessment had been done prior to the trip and reasonable actions to prevent pupils getting burnt were taken.
Despite only being exposed to sunlight for 30 minutes the child burned their legs after it was decided to allow them to wear shorts with no sun protection – a move criticised as a “poor decision” by investigators.
Once the severity of the sunburn was known, the pupil’s mother, identified as “Mrs C”, was informed by teachers from the unnamed school and the youngster was taken to hospital after initially visiting a pharmacist.
The SPSO report states: “The child was bandaged from thigh to toe and was unable to mobilise independently and in need of a wheelchair.
“The return journey home was 36 hours by coach. We considered that staff, who could see the condition child A was in, ought to have explored with Mrs C and her husband other options for getting child A home more quickly, taking into account the child’s dignity, privacy and comfort.”
Investigators were also critical of failing to treat the mother’s anger about the incident as a formal complaint and their response “lacked empathy”.
The council was told to apologise for the poor handling of the complaint and failing to establish other options to get the pupil home.
A refresher session for staff on how to handle complaints has also been recommended.
A council spokeswoman said: “We accept the findings of the SPSO’s decision report and will, as requested, provide evidence that their recommendations have been implemented.”