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Sydney Morning Herald
Psychiatrist reprimanded over inappropriate relationship lands senior NSW hospital job
By Michael Evans
June 21, 2020

Psychiatrist Andrew Leggett

Psychiatrist Andrew Leggett

A psychiatrist reprimanded in Queensland over an inappropriate sexual relationship with a former patient has been appointed to a senior clinical role in the NSW public health system.

In 2012, the Medical Board of Australia launched disciplinary action against Dr Andrew Leggett over his treatment of a female patient, alleging the psychiatrist allowed the relationship to become personal and sexual.

It launched action that saw Dr Leggett take voluntary redundancy and leave the public system.

The psychiatrist was then reprimanded in a tribunal in 2015 after admitting to a relationship with the former patient. He was ordered to complete a course of counselling with a specialist in boundary violation issues.

There are no restrictions on his licence to practise today.

Dr Leggett began work this month in the NSW public health system as the mental health clinical director of the Mid North Coast local health district based around Port Macquarie and Kempsey.

A Supreme Court of Queensland judgment in 2013 concerning the scope of the medical regulator’s action in the civil and administrative tribunal details that after ceasing treatment Dr Leggett began a sexual relationship with the patient after “an inappropriate interval”.

The Supreme Court judgment details allegations that Dr Leggett “initiated sexualised conduct involving lap sitting and prolonged hugging upon restarting the treating relationship in 2002” and that he told the patient before ending the treating relationship that “I wish I could have you both”, referring to her and his wife.

In 2015, Dr Leggett made admissions in an agreed statement of facts in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal that the presiding tribunal member described as “much more narrowly confined” than the original complaint.

The agreed facts showed Dr Leggett treated the patient for dysthymia, or persistent mild depression, for nearly a decade but by mid-2000, he ceased treating her because she “had developed and was displaying eroticised transference issues toward Dr Leggett and was applying pressure towards him to commence an inappropriate sexual relationship”.

Dr Leggett referred her to another doctor and made a “one-year no contact period” following the ending of treatment.

By the second half of 2001, the woman sought to recommence therapy with Dr Leggett and he consulted with her to assess whether she may recommence therapy but “her pressure towards a sexual relationship” resurfaced. He told her he could not treat her.

Around April 2007, Dr Leggett commenced a personal relationship with the woman.

The tribunal heard Dr Leggett did not exploit the woman and the relationship had no characteristics of predatory behaviour, rather they began a sexual relationship which both described as being caring, intimate and loving.

When the Medical Board of Australia began action against Dr Leggett in 2012 by imposing conditions on his registration, the conditions made his then employment in public medicine impracticable, the QCAT said.

Dr Leggett took paid leave before accepting voluntary early redundancy from the public system. He recommenced private practice in January 2014 in a practice for male patients.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren, in handing down his decision in the QCAT, said he did not believe a period of suspension was warranted.

“Dr Leggett has deposed to the substantial impact which these events have had on him personally and professionally, including in respect of his family,” he said. “Those matters are no doubt quite true.

“However, they are the direct or indirect consequences of him having conducted himself in the way in which he has now admitted.”

In a statement, Dr Richard Tranter, the mental health director of medical services in the NSW mid north coast local health district that this month hired Dr Leggett, said the psychiatrist was appointed following a competitive recruitment process.

“Dr Leggett has 27 years experience as a senior psychiatrist and extensive clinical experience in the field of psychotherapy, having held senior academic positions in leading universities in NSW and Queensland.

“Dr Leggett is recognised by his peers for his excellent standards of patient care and outstanding commitment to training junior psychiatrists and clinical staff.

“Dr Leggett provided details of his reprimand as part of his job application and was open and transparent throughout the recruitment process.

“While there are no restrictions on his registration, Dr Leggett has made himself available to speak with any staff member who seeks clarification about his appointment.”

Approached for comment from Dr Leggett, the local area health district spokeswoman referred the Herald to Dr Tranter’s statement.