• GMC is reviewing records of doctors who came to practice in the UK from certain Commonwealth countries in the 1990s
  • Zholia Alemi used a loophole in the Medical Act to practice fraudulently as a psychiatrist in West Cumbria for 22 years
  • GMC chief executive describes the exploitation as “abhorrent”

The General Medical Council is reviewing up to 3,000 doctors’ records to verify their authenticity, following reports about the use of a fraudulent qualification to join the register.

New Zealander Zholia Alemi had been practicing as a psychiatrist for over 20 years in West Cumbria, despite not being qualified as a doctor.

She was jailed in October after she was found guilty by Carlisle Crown Court of fraudulently redrafting a dementia patient’s will and applying for power of attorney.

The GMC confirmed Ms Alemi joined the register under a section of the Medical Act that allowed graduates of medical schools in certain Commonwealth countries to obtain registration without having to sit and pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam.

She presented documents, including a primary medical qualification from the University of Auckland, which were not subject to rigorous checks.

In response, the GMC said it had started an immediate review of all doctors who joined the register via this route and who are still licensed to practice in the UK.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said the regulator is investigating “these serious issues urgently”.

“It is extremely concerning that a person used a fraudulent qualification to join the register and we are working to understand how this happened,” Mr Massey said. “Patients deserve good care from appropriately qualified professionals and place a great deal of trust in doctors. To exploit that trust and the respected name of the profession is abhorrent.”

Mr Massey stressed that the GMC’s processes are “far stronger now” and said the steps taken in the 1990s were “inadequate”.

“We apologise for any risk arising to patients as a result,” Mr Massey said. “We are confident that, 23 years on, our systems are robust and would identify any fraudulent attempt to join the medical register.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “As the organisation responsible for regulating doctors, we expect the GMC to investigate how this criminal was able to register as a doctor and put measures in place to make sure it can’t happen again.”