Married NHS psychologist is struck off after ‘intense’ and ‘highly sexual’ affair with a patient

  • Dr Elinor Harper met the patient in hotels after they kissed in a session in 2018
  • A hearing into the matter heard they developed a ‘very intense’ relationship 
  • Panel heard that she allowed the patient to open gambling accounts in her name
  • Hospital Trust, which cannot be named, started investigation after a complaint

A psychologist working in the NHS has been struck off after she started a ‘highly sexual’ affair with a patient. 

A disciplinary hearing heard that Dr Elinor Harper met with the patient in hotel rooms after they hugged and kissed following private sessions. 

Dr Harper, who was married at the time,  began working at an NHS Trust, which cannot be named for legal reasons, in August 2017. 

A Health and Care Professional Tribunal Service hearing was told that her role involved treating complex patients with psychological difficulties. 

The case was heard at the Health and Care Professional Tribunal Service

In February 2018, she began to treat a patient, identified as Service User A, who had a history of mental health issues. 

The panel heard that during the therapy sessions, the patient told Dr Harper that he loved her and that the pair hugged at the end of a private session in November 2018. 

The pair embraced and kissed in their next session after she told him she was in love with him. 

Their relationship became ‘very intense very quickly’, as the pair spoke or messaged daily and met in hotels twice in December 2018. 

They also began to visit each others’ homes.  

In WhatsApp messaged, Dr Harper wrote: ‘I love you too… I couldn’t admit it to myself straightaway. 

‘But since the day you first held me and stroked my back and looked deep in my eyes the flood gates have opened and my love for you just flows through me. There’s no stopping it now.

‘We’re like two stars collided.’ 

In a later message, when discussing their first hug, she told the patient she had thought, ‘I’m in trouble here.’ 

In a witness statement, Service User A said Dr Harper had told him she was married, but that she no longer wanted to be with her husband. 

The service user had told her, ‘this is not right, you’re supposed to be my therapist,’ to which she replied, ‘it is, people have different perspectives.’  

She also allowed him to open gambling accounts online using her details, despite the fact that he had a problem with betting. 

When speaking to the panel, Dr Harper said that the service user had wanted to keep their relationship a secret as he was ‘terrified that [his ex-wife] would stop him seeing the children if she found out.’ 

The panel concluded that she had abused her position of trust and struck her off 

In a witness statement she said: ‘I hated that our relationship was a secret. Of course, I had worries about what other people would think and how we would be judged when the truth came out.’   

Their relationship ended in April 2019. 

After taking sick leave, Dr Harper handed in her notice in July 2019 and ended her employment in October that year. 

But in September 2019, the service user’s ex-wife made a formal complaint about her, alleging that Dr Harper had groomed the man and had been involved in a sexual relationship with him. 

When challenged, Dr Harper denied the claims and said she felt mortified and physically sick about the accusation. 

But, following an investigation by the Trust, the tribunal found that she had abused her position of trust and struck her off. 

‘[She] breached professional boundaries and engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, whom she knew to be a vulnerable client,’ the panel concluded. 

‘There is no evidence of remorse or apology from [her]. There was no recognition of the impact of her actions on [him], his family, other professionals or on the wider public perception of the profession.’

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