GMC confirms 3,000 Commonwealth route doctors have genuine degrees

A review of the qualifications of more than 3,000 licensed doctors who joined the register using the now-abolished ‘Commonwealth route’ has been completed, with all their primary medical degrees found to be genuine.

The General Medical Council announced it would check the qualifications of all licensed doctors who had gained registration via this route, after it was found that Zholia Alemi was able to join the register using fraudulent documents in 1995.

Working in partnership with the Educational Commission For Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)*, the General Medical Council has checked the records of 3,117 doctors and found none had used fraudulent documents to gain registration.

The Commonwealth route – which used to be available to doctors who qualified in certain Commonwealth countries – was abolished in 2003.

Una Lane, Director of Registration and Revalidation at the GMC, said:

‘It was very important that these checks were carried out to reassure the public about the qualifications of their doctors. We are confident that the robust checks we use today would identify anyone attempting to join the register dishonestly.

‘The case which prompted this review was exceptional, but it’s unacceptable that even a single person was able to join our register in this way, and we apologise for any risk arising to patients as a result’.

We are now considering whether any further checks of any other groups of doctors may be required.

Advice for any patients who may have been treated by Zholia Alemi.

Our registration checks

A doctor applying for registration today in the same scenario would be required to:

  • have their primary qualification verified with the relevant university by the *ECFMG – the body –that verifies the credentials of healthcare professionals worldwide
  • sit and pass both parts of Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test or provide equivalent evidence of their medical knowledge and skills
  • provide comprehensive employment history for the most recent five years and references
  • provide a certificate of good standing from the regulator in each country they had practised in over those five years
  • attend the GMC offices in person to undergo an ID check bringing all original documentation with them. These documents are then examined in detail. This includes physical and light machine examination – each document is examined for signs of amendment, tampering or falsification. We also use a Keesing document checker – Keesing Technologies is a specialist provider of digital anti-counterfeiting and authentication solutions. In addition, we have access to a system called PRADO – a multi-lingual site for disseminating information on security features of authentic identity and travel documents.