Patients in Borders seen by bogus psychiatrist now in jail for fraud

NHS Borders is contacting patients seen by bogus psychiatrist Zholia Alemi, employed as a locum in the region 16 years ago.
NHS Borders is contacting patients seen by bogus psychiatrist Zholia Alemi, employed as a locum in the region 16 years ago.

Borders patients seen by a bogus psychiatrist currently serving five years in prison for fraud have been contacted by NHS Borders as part of an inquiry into her time working here.

Zholia Alemi masqueraded as a doctor in the UK for over 20 years after claiming to have qualified at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, but she dropped out of medical school in her first year.

That deception was unearthed after she was found guilty of fraudulently making herself a beneficiary in a vulnerable patient’s will while she was working for a Cumbrian dementia service last October.

A Carlisle Crown Court jury concluded she had used her position of trust to defraud the patient, and Alemi was sentenced to five years in jail.

Alemi had joined the UK medical register in 1995 and worked in various parts of the UK, including a few weeks as as a locum for NHS Borders in 2003.

In a letter sent to NHS boards, including the chief executive of NHS Borders, Ralph Roberts, earlier this year, the Scottish Government’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, said she expected the review to identify patients affected by Alemi’s activity through “prescription of drugs, electro-convulsive therapy, treatment or diagnosis or in the use of the Mental Health Act”.

She also warned that: “She is known to have befriended and groomed vulnerable people that she came into contact with through working as a psychiatrist, with the ultimate aim of accessing their financial affairs.

“This often manifested through the development of inappropriate relationships and offers of personal support.”

NHS Borders has now contacted by letter patients seen by Alemi.

One patient, who we agreed not to name, told us: “As far as I can tell, I’ve not been adversely affected – I am still here – but you have to wonder how someone like that can pretend to be a psychiatrist for so long.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders told us: “We can confirm that Ms Alemi worked for NHS Borders as a locum for a short number of weeks in the autumn of 2003.

“As this is an ongoing police investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment any further.

“We are in the process of contacting patients who were treated by Ms Alemi in 2003.

“Those who are concerned that they were treated by Ms Alemi can contact Cliff Sharp, medical director at NHS Borders on 01896 827155 to discuss their concerns.”