Becoming an associate in training (AiT) symbolises, for many new GP trainees, their first achievement of joining the ranks as a GP in training.
But with legions of new AiTs populating training posts in both primary and secondary care, all with the ultimate aim of progressing through their assessments and attaining their certificate for completion of training (CCT), what are the benefits of being an AiT? And at what cost?
After having completed the three-stage application process for specialty training (ST) in general practice, successful candidates are invited to join the RCGP and become an AiT.
To do so costs £799, including the £145 initial subscription fee and three payments of £218 in the April of each ST year.
Becoming an AiT is not compulsory, although most trainees do take the opportunity to join.
For trainees who decline to register as AiTs, it is still possible to register for both certification and the MRCGP assessments - the applied knowledge test, clinical skills assessment and workplace-based assessment (WPBA). The ePortfolio is also available to non-AiTs in order to complete their assessments and ongoing reviews.
One of the shining lights of AiT membership is subscription to the monthly journal, InnovAIT. This RCGP journal is exclusively for AiTs, contains detailed features that support the RCGP curriculum, and is designed to be built into a compendium at the conclusion of training.
Also included is a subscription to the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), with both hard-copy issues and access to the BJGP online through which back issues can be accessed.
In addition, three e-newsletters are distributed to AiTs. Sevendays is a weekly bulletin of professional news and updates on guidance and policy in primary care. The AiT newsletter is a monthly e-newsletter detailing updates in all aspects of training, as well as providing details of relevant upcoming courses and events. Journal Watch is a monthly digest of current research in general practice and primary care.
Although it can feel like being bombarded with information, with good time management and organisation (both skills new AiTs are perpetually striving towards improving), these resources provide comprehensive coverage of relevant and current facets of general practice, while InnovAIT ensures a focus on training is maintained.
AiTs have access to trainee representatives through whom they are encouraged to raise issues and to feed back to the local faculty. Each of the RCGP's 31 faculties or local offices has an AiT representative to support AiTs. Careers support as well as a direct enquiry line and email address for AiTs is available centrally.
The annual national RCGP conference has specific educational streams for AiTs, as well as events throughout the conference exclusively for AITs. These range from social events to sessions targeting specific aspects of the curriculum, be they clinical, management-related or otherwise.
At a local level, AiT support will vary between faculties. In our corner of the West Midlands, we have an online forum allowing regular updates and discussion about issues pertaining to AiTs in both primary and secondary care.
A 'buddy' system is also in place where senior AiTs can mentor and support new AiTs through the first year of their training.
Periodically, social events are arranged to encourage and support trainees while providing an outlet for getting to know peers in a more relaxed environment.
Getting more involved
For those AiTs keen to get more involved, it is possible to become a representative. The AiT committee provides a voice for AiTs in the development of policy and future initiatives in relation to GP training and membership.
The committee also has links with major RCGP committees and the postgraduate training board, as well as representation on external committees.
Two AiT representatives sit on the college council and there is one AIT representative from each faculty area, all of whom meet biannually in London to represent AiTs and inform college policy.
Locally, the representatives are elected and roles include actively engaging in discussion with AiTs in their area, as well as helping in the dissemination of information.
The role of AiT membership in this dynamic period of healthcare reform is both stabilising and supportive as GP trainees navigate through the WPBA, educational supervisor meetings and annual reviews of competency en route to CCT.
The resources and representation offered are of a high standard, however, responsibility lies with the trainee to make the most of the opportunities AiT membership offers.
- Dr Reeves is a GP ST2 in Warwickshire.