Ms Lynda Lane – Mental Health Social Worker - Permanent Prohibition Order

17 September 2020

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (the Commission) conducted an investigation into the conduct of Ms Lynda Lane, a non-registered health practitioner who provided services as an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker at her solo private-practice, ‘My Mind Matters’, in regional NSW.

The complaints alleged that Ms Lane had engaged in unprofessional conduct by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with two of her mental health clients. 

The investigation found that Ms Lane commenced and maintained an inappropriate close personal and sexual relationship with two of her clients, Client A and Client B, in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The Commission found that both clients were highly vulnerable at the time of their counselling, and at the commencement of their close personal and sexual relationships with Ms Lane, with both having significant mental health issues and a history of drug-abuse. 

The investigation found that for both Clients A and B, Ms Lane did not ensure a suitable period of time had elapsed before commencing a close personal and sexual relationship with them. Specifically:

  • In respect of Client A, the investigation found that Ms Lane commenced a close personal and sexual relationship in 2018 when Client A was a client, and;
  • In respect of Client B, the investigation found that Ms Lane commenced a close personal relationship with Client B at the latest three days after Client B’s final consultation in July 2019, and a sexual relationship within weeks, if not days, following the end of the therapeutic relationship.

The investigation found that Ms Lane was aware at the time she commenced her inappropriate relationships with Clients A and B that her conduct was unethical and in breach of the Code of Conduct for non-registered health practitioners (Schedule 3, Public Health Regulation 2012) and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Code of Ethics. Despite this, Ms Lane proceeded to enter into these relationships and notably, commenced a relationship with Client B almost immediately following the acrimonious break-down of her relationship with Client A in August 2019.

The investigation found that Ms Lane violated her position of trust and power as an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and took advantage of Clients A and B, both highly vulnerable individuals, for the primary purpose of commencing a close personal and intimate relationship with them. The investigation found that Ms Lane did not refer either client to another health service following the end of their therapeutic relationship, despite their long-standing and current mental health issues. 

The investigation found Ms Lane placed her own needs and desires above those of her clients and as a result, significant harm was caused, in particular to Client A, who returned to being homeless and without a support network after the acrimonious break-down of the relationship.  

Despite Ms Lane’s admissions of inappropriate behaviour, the investigation found that Ms Lane lacked insight into the seriousness of her conduct, as evidenced by her repeated failure to meaningfully recognise the significant vulnerabilities of Clients A and B and the inherent power difference between herself as a practitioner and her clients.  

The investigation found that Ms Lane was not forthcoming to the Commission about the timeframe and nature of her relationships with Clients A and B. The investigation found this was a deliberate attempt by Ms Lane to minimise the seriousness of her conduct. The investigation also found that Ms Lane deliberately tried to hide her relationship with Client B by failing to inform the Commission of this when firstly, she was under active investigation by the Commission in respect of Client A, and secondly, when initially notified of the complaint concerning Client B. 

The investigation found that Ms Lane’s conduct constitutes an extremely serious breach of trust and has damaged her profession’s integrity and good standing. 

The Commission considers that Ms Lane poses a risk to public health or safety due to the seriousness of her boundary transgressions and her significant lack of insight. 

The Commission therefore makes the following prohibition order: 

Ms Lynda Lane is permanently prohibited from providing health services, as defined under section 4 of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, whether on a paid or voluntary basis.

Further Information

Access the Commission’s Statement of Decision here.

Access to the Commission's media release here.

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444.

 


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