Glasgow & West Scotland

'I was treated by a fake psychiatrist'

Zholia Alemi Image copyright Cumbria Police
Image caption Zholia Alemi faked her medical degree when she came to the UK in the 1990s

A man is planning to sue a Scottish health board after he was treated by "fake psychiatrist" Zholia Alemi.

The New Zealander practised psychiatry in the NHS for 22 years without any qualifications.

The deception came to light after she was jailed for five years for faking a dementia patient's will in an attempt to inherit her estate.

Scottish man Alex Owen claims he was put on powerful medication by Alemi while she worked at a hospital in Ayr.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran said it confirmed she was registered with the General Medical Council before employing her as a locum psychiatrist for 16 months in 2007 and 2008.

It apologised for any distress the situation had caused.

Mr Owen told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that he did not agree with her diagnosis that he had borderline personality disorder.

She treated him at Aisla Hospital in Ayr in 2008.

"My experience with Ms Alemi was she was a pleasant character," Mr Owen said. "As a person she was quite pleasant to deal with.

"However, I didn't always agree with the diagnosis that was given at that point in time which was borderline personality disorder."

He added: "I was then put on two anti-psychotic drugs, quite potent drugs in my opinion, that made me feel sleepy, they made me feel quite tired during the day.

"I would be hungry quite a lot of the time and I did gain quite a bit of weight being on those medications. There was instances where I didn't take them just because of the side-effects that they would leave me with."

He said he doubted his diagnosis and his own GP "never really agreed with it".

"I guess I could have raised my own opinions a lot sooner, rather than go through 10 years of not saying anything," he said.

"But it's not until something like this happens where you see a doctor isn't really a doctor which makes you think, 'Well, do you know what? I might have been right and I should have said something sooner'."

'Slight relief'

Mr Owens said he only realised his psychiatrist did not have the necessary credentials to practice when he read a news article about Alemi.

He said it was now a "bit of a struggle" to put trust in the health service but he hoped that NHS boards could learn from their mistakes.

But he added: "I feel a slight bit of relief in a way because I believe the diagnosis I was given wasn't 100% correct and this doctor coming out as not being a doctor really supports my opinion and also others' opinion."

Alemi claimed to have had a medical degree from Auckland university when she registered in the UK in 1995 but she actually dropped out of medical school in her first year.

She was convicted of fraud and theft at Carlisle Crown Court in October after taking advantage of a vulnerable patient.

After her deception was revealed last month, the GMC said urgent checks would be carried out on 3,000 foreign doctors following the Alemi case.

It apologised for "inadequate" checks in the 1990s.

Mr Owen's lawyer, Greg Whyte, said there was likely to be more people affected by the situation.

"The concern here is there is going to be more people like Alex Owen, there's bound to be," he said. "This lady practised and prescribed drugs, sectioned people."

Dr John Taylor, of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said: "We would like to apologise for any distress this situation may have caused.

"If patients were treated by this individual and have concerns, we would advise them to contact our Mental Health Services team on 01292 559863."

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