The General Medical Council (GMC) of Britain has launched an investigation into thousands of UK-based doctors from some former British colonies after a fake psychiatrist with no qualifications was found to have been practicing in the country for over 22 years. Zholia Alemi, 56, worked at health facilities in Britain using what she said was a qualification from her native New Zealand. A subsequent investigation found that she had only a degree in human biology and never completed her medical studies.
Alemi arrived in England in the mid-1990s, taking advantage of a program that allowed physicians from some former British colonies to secure licenses to practice in Britain with limited examinations of their credentials. As a result, she never had to take the standard two-part assessment of her medical knowledge and skills known as the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam (Plab).
The General Medical Council said, “As part of her application, Zholia Alemi presented what appeared to be a Primary Medical Qualification from the University of Auckland, a letter from the university confirming her graduation and a reference letter from her most recent employers in Pakistan. We now know that the qualification provided was fraudulent.” The program she used to gain her license was phased out in 2003 and replaced with a more rigorous oversight program.
Alemi’s fraudulent activities were uncovered after she was accused of taking advantage of a patient, Gillian Belham, to gain control of her estate, valued at around $1.5 million. She was convicted of forging her patient’s will and sentenced last month to five years in prison. She was also found to have stolen a number of the woman’s watches.
Alemi’s contract of employment with Cumbria NHS Trust was terminated after her initial arrest and she was interim suspended in June 2017 by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service. British medical authorities are now checking the credentials of another 3,000 foreign physicians that qualified for medical licenses under the same program that Alemi used.