Fake psychiatrist sentenced to seven years – Expert comment
Our medical negligence team is warning that many patients could have been harmed by a woman who posed as a psychiatrist on the NHS for 20 years.
Zholia Alemi, has recently been sentenced to seven years in prison for working as a psychiatrist for over 20 years in the UK, using false documents.
Manchester Crown Court was informed that Alemi claimed to have qualified at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and went on to work in various positions in the UK, where she had the authority to confine mental health patients without their consent.
Although Alemi had denied 20 offences, she was convicted 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.
Expert comment from Medical Negligence solicitor
Partner, Iain Dodd, from our Southport office, expressed surprise that this had gone on for so long and warned of the consequences. He said:
“The lack of thorough checks that could have exposed this fraud is truly astonishing and a severe dereliction of duty by those tasked with ensuring patient safety. We join the calls for a comprehensive inquiry to identify the causes of this breach, assess its impact on the affected patients, and outline measures to prevent such incidents in the future. In addition, we are exploring the possibility of legal action on behalf of those harmed by these NHS failures.”
Judge Hilary Manley, who presided over the sentencing hearing, also called for an inquiry into how the General Medical Council (GMC) registered Alemi as a doctor based on “clearly false” documents submitted in 1995.
False medical qualifications
The court heard that Alemi studied to be a doctor in New Zealand in the early 1990s but did not complete her course. However, she went on to work as a consultant clinical psychiatrist after forging a degree certificate and a letter of verification, both of which were accepted by the GMC.
Alemi had worked in numerous positions throughout the UK and had earned up to £1.3m in wages from the National Health Service (NHS) using her fraudulent documents. The prosecution informed the court that her actions had likely led to a loss of confidence in the NHS and many vulnerable patients being put at risk by being treated by an unqualified professional.
Alemi was initially convicted at Carlisle Crown Court in 2018 for attempting to forge the will and powers of attorney of an 84-year-old widow from Keswick, one of her patients. As a result, she was sentenced to five years in jail. After inquiring about her in New Zealand, a journalist uncovered the truth about Alemi’s false medical qualifications. This prompted an investigation by Cumbria Police.