THE fake psychiatrist exposed by the News & Star was the director of a medical recruitment firm which was paid more than £115,000 by the Cumbrian NHS Trust which employed her.

Zholia Alemi began working with vulnerable elderly patients as a locum psychiatrist in west Cumbria on October 19, 2015, just six months after she had been sacked by her previous NHS employer in Norwich as a result of “safeguarding concerns.”

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust suspended her on June 6 the following year when she was arrested for fraud and theft. She was later convicted of forging an elderly patient’s will in a bid to inherit her £1.3m estate.

The Cumbrian trust has consistently refused to say whether it knew about Alemi’s sacking, and nor will it explain its relationship with Virvo Ltd, the medical recruitment agency which the fraudster was running.

It was dissolved on January 17 of last year.

Evidence which has been available through Freedom of Information disclosures show that Virvo did business with the Trust between 2015 and 2017.

During the 2015/16 financial year, according to figures compiled by NHS statisticians, the Cumbrian Trust spent £77,962 with Virvo Ltd, and during the following financial year, the trust paid Virvo Ltd. £37,382. Trust officials will not clarify what service or services that money paid for, saying that officials are unable to comment because there is now a police investigation.

Two Cumbrian MPs - Carlisle’s John Stevenson and Workington’s Sue Hayman - have called for transparency.

Meanwhile, the General Medical Council (GMC) has issued a series of statements as it continues to check on the validity of the qualifications of about 3,000 other UK doctors who gained entry to the UK Medical Register in the same way that Alemi did - effectively on the basis of their paper qualifications.

The regulator has confirmed that Alemi worked at locations around the country, employed as a locum (temporary) psychiatrist for both private and NHS employers.

A GMC statement says: “We also know that she sat and passed the Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists exam in 2003.

“At the time, this was a two-part exam with written and clinical parts. The MRCPysch, as it is known, is awarded to those doctors who have completed at least three years training in psychiatry and who pass the two-part test.”

Alemi passed those exams after several attempts.

The royal college subsequently recommended her for entry to our psychiatry specialist register in 2012, effectively elevating her to the status of consultant, with a specialism in learning disability. “This meant that the royal college was satisfied she had demonstrated the knowledge, skills and experience required to be appointed as a substantive consultant in the NHS,” says the statement.

The statement adds: A GMC statement outlined the action taken after Alemi’s bogus qualifications were exposed, saying: “We immediately contacted the police and other organisations responsible for healthcare services across all four countries of the UK.

“This included NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and government officials in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“We also contacted Zholia Alemi’s former employers.”

Work is underway to look at Alemi’s work history and whether there have been complaints about the care she provided.

The statement added: “This is to make sure arrangements are in place locally to respond to concerns from patients or their families and to make sure local arrangements for verifying the identity, qualifications and registration status of doctors are robust.”