Thousands of patients could have been harmed by a Kiwi bogus psychiatrist with no medical qualifications, health chiefs fear.

Zholia Alemi, 56, is believed to have worked in NHS and private clinics in Devon, Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Dundee and the Scottish Highlands during a 22-year career.

She was allowed to register as a doctor using a fake degree because the General Medical Council (GMC) never checked that her documents were genuine.

Yesterday, the GMC confirmed it had begun a major review to establish where Alemi worked and how many patients she saw and possibly harmed.

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The evidence will be handed to Cumbria Police, which will investigate allegations of fraud.

Conwoman Zholia Alemi, believed to be of Iranian origin, claimed to have a medical degree from the University of Auckland.
Conwoman Zholia Alemi, believed to be of Iranian origin, claimed to have a medical degree from the University of Auckland.

As MPs demanded to know how Alemi was allowed on to the medical register so easily and permitted to practise for 22 years, anxious patients were urged to contact the GMC's support line.

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday how Alemi was put on the GMC's register in 1995 due to a loophole for Commonwealth doctors coming to work in Britain.

The conwoman – believed to be of Iranian origin – claimed to have a medical degree from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. But in reality she dropped out after her first year.

The GMC toughened up its registration process in 2003. It is now reviewing the backgrounds of 3000 doctors who came to the UK from these Commonwealth countries before that year to check if their degrees are genuine.

A GMC spokesman said: 'We have established a review team to urgently examine the detail of the case.

'We have also contacted all other relevant agencies and organisations including the police, NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Royal College of Psychiatrists to let them know that we are undertaking an investigation.'

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who is the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in south Cumbria, said the case was a "big concern".

He added: "You are talking about very vulnerable people being cared for by a person who apparently doesn't know what she is doing."

Sue Hayman, the Labour MP for Workington, said the case was "quite extraordinary".

"We need an absolute assurance from (the GMC) that their systems are now robust and that this can't happen again."

Alemi's deception came to light only after she was jailed for five years last month for trying to forge an elderly dementia patient's will in an attempt to inherit her £1.3 million estate in Cumbria.

A judge at Carlisle Crown Court described her behaviour as 'cruel criminality motivated by pure greed'.

In 2012, Alemi was investigated by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service – which decides whether doctors are fit to practise – after failing to disclose a conviction for careless driving.

At the same time, it looked into a complaint that she had wrongly sectioned a patient, but only gave her a warning.

The GMC is powerless to bring disciplinary charges against Alemi because she is not a real doctor and so cannot be struck off the medical register.

The Lotus-driving manipulator who conned the public health service

Zholia Alemi ordered her office staff to write out prescriptions for patients to avoid being exposed as a fraud, her former secretary claimed last night.

She even suggested electric shock therapy to treat a young woman's autism.

The extraordinary claims were made by Claire Wilkinson, 45, who worked for Alemi at Livewell Southwest, a private hospital for those with learning disabilities in Plymouth. Alemi, 56, worked at the unit in 2014 and 2015.

Wilkinson said her former boss was a wealth-obsessed "manipulator", who drove a Lotus sports car. She said she and another nurse raised concerns about her 'bizarre' professional behaviour – but claimed health chiefs ignored their complaints.

The mother-of-one, who no longer works in the health sector, said: "She was never professional. She never seemed to have a clue what she was doing.

"She once tried to give electric shock therapy to a young woman with autism. She used to get me to write out all her prescriptions, which she would then just sign off."

Wilkinson added: "She had an obsession with money. She was obsessed with wealthy men. She liked all the big bosses – she'd always talk about how handsome they were."