Autistic man drowned in bath after fake psychiatrist 'ignored' family's requests for assessment
PUBLISHED: 08:34 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:48 27 November 2018
A bogus psychiatrist who practised in the UK for more than 20 years with no qualifications worked at the region's mental health trust, it has been revealed.
When she moved to the UK in the 1990s Zholia Alemi falsely claimed to have a medical degree from the University of Auckland.
She practised psychiatry for 22 years with no qualifications, but her fraudulent career was outed in October when she was jailed for five years for forging a dementia patient’s will in order to steal her £1.3m estate.
It has emerged that Alemi served as a locum consultant psychiatrist for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) between April 2014 and July 2015.
During this time she was based at Lothingland Hospital, Oulton, near Lowestoft, and worked mainly for the adult learning disability service as well as with children with learning difficulties.
Today, the family of an autistic Lowestoft man who drowned in his own bathtub said it happened after Alemi refused to carry out appropriate checks while under her care.
Darren King died at his flat in Nile Court on Dell Road East in April 2017 after suffering a seizure while in the bath aged 31.
Despite numerous requests from his family, Alemi refused to carry out a capacity assessment on the risk of him living alone.
Gavin King, Darren’s father, said he found the psychiatrist “a very obnoxious person” who failed to provide the care his son needed.
He said: “Because of his autism he didn’t understand a lot of life, he didn’t understand finances or his medication.
“But he got so much further forward than anyone ever expected him to, he loved football, he loved computer games, he learnt to drive.”
Mr King explained his son had been suffering from epilepsy for around three years.
He was prone to violent seizures and repeatedly injured himself – knocking his teeth out more than once.
Due to this his parents were fearful of his use of the bath in his flat.
They wanted assessments carried out to prove he should not be living in a home with such facilities as he did not fully understand when to take his drugs or the impact drinking alcohol had on the medication.
Mr King added: “He had plenty of fits but he just didn’t understand when he had them.
“We kept trying to tell her that he didn’t understand when he had an epileptic fit. She more or less just ignored it.
“She wasn’t engaged in doing anything we asked, there was no standard of care at all.”
Following Alemi’s exit from the NSFT the vulnerable man was not assigned to another psychiatrist.
And his grieving father described the devastation he and his wife felt when it was revealed the woman in charge of caring for their son was an imposter.
Mr King said: “We were just totally dismayed - my wife has been in bits and has needed time off work again.
“We can’t say he wouldn’t have died from a seizure, but he wouldn’t have drowned.
“I just can’t believe in this day and age someone got away with this. It’s unbelievable.
“I think in her own mind she was what she said she was.”
The couple have since contacted Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who is planning to raise the issue in Parliament.
Mr Aldous said: “My heartfelt sympathies go out to them.
“It is a cause for concern and we need to establish exactly what happened, how she was able to practice.
“I will ask the questions which need to be asked, both locally and nationally, on this inappropriate appointment which may have had an impact on their son’s death.”
An NSFT spokesman said: “All the appropriate checks had been undertaken by the General Medical Council (GMC) and by the agency through which we employed Zholia Alemi before she joined NSFT.
“Our trust terminated her contract as a result of safeguarding concerns and reported her to the GMC.
“NSFT’s medical director doctor Bohdan Solomka is writing to all patients and carers Zholia Alemi had contact with in order to tell them who they need to get in touch with to discuss any concerns they may have.”
How did she do it?
The GMC has come under fire since the discovery that Alemi had duped it into believing she was a real psychiatrist.
The statutory body acts as the doctors’ watchdog and is designed to protect, promote and maintain the safety of the public.
A GMC spokesman said: “Zholia Alemi joined the register under a section of the Medical Act which has not been in force since 2003.
“It allowed graduates of medical schools in certain Commonwealth countries to obtain registration on the basis of their qualification, without having to sit and pass the standard Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam (PLAB).
“As part of her application, Zholia Alemi presented what appeared to be a Primary Medical Qualification from the University of Auckland, a letter from the university confirming her graduation and a reference letter from her most recent employers in Pakistan. In the 1990s, these documents were not subject to the rigorous checks that are now in place. We now know that the qualification provided was fraudulent.”