Johannesburg - The country's biggest medical aid administrator, Medscheme, has uncovered a scam in which 18 homeopaths obtained professional registration from the Allied Health Professions Council of SA, allegedly under false pretences.

The practitioners claimed to have received their qualifications from an institution in the UK that did not exist, Medscheme said.

Gary Taylor, Medscheme's managing director of group services, said: "We have notified the health council, which we hope will deregister these 18 people immediately."

"It is an outrage that medical aid members have been ripped off."

The probe by Medscheme's fraud unit led investigators to London, where they met with Interpol. The investigators secured affidavits to facilitate prosecution by local courts.

While most doctors were ethical, Taylor said, there was a minority that had to be brought to book.

"Medical aid schemes cannot be expected to fight this battle alone, and we call on the profession to expose the few fraudsters," Taylor said.

The Board of Healthcare Funders has formed a committee to root out fraud, which is believed to cost between R4 billion and R8 billion a year. Medscheme's fraud unit has recovered R30 million from medical practitioners this year.

The health professions council said it was committed to eliminating fraud in the medical profession.