Fake psychiatrist practiced for 20 years in UK

A woman was able to practice as a psychiatrist in the United Kingdom for over 20 years despite not having a medical degree. Zholia Alemi claimed she had a medical degree from The University of Auckland in New Zealand and registered as a physician in the United Kingdom in 1995. In truth, Alemi dropped out of medical school during her first year.

The General Medical Council (GMC) is a public body that maintains the official register of medical practitioners within the United Kingdom. The GMC said up until 2003, there was a section of the Medical Act that allowed medical school graduates from certain Commonwealth countries to join the medical register on the basis of the qualification they obtained at home, rather than passing a standard two-part medical test for foreign physicians.

Alemi’s fake credentials were discovered in 2018 when she was convicted of fraud and theft against a patient. Alemi was working as a consultant psychiatrist for a dementia service and fraudulently changed a patient’s will to become the patient’s power of attorney. Alemi was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Earlier this month, Alemi was found guilty of 13 counts of fraud, three counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a false instrument, related to her falsifying her credentials. Alemi is set to be sentenced on February 28.

The GMC is reviewing the records of physicians who registered for a license under the same rules as Alemi—which is about 3,000 physicians.