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Are AiT fees going up? If so, new GP trainees should think carefully about whether they're worth it

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As a paid up Associate in Training (AiT) of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) we recently had an email from the Chairman of the AiT Committee about the fees AiT members pay to the college.

It wasn’t clear reading the email what changes might actually be proposed, and the press release is equally opaque. There is mention of ‘re-aligning’ of fees and the possibility of some examination fees being reduced to AiT members. There is not actually any mention of whether the fees are actually going to go up or down. Forgive me for being cynical but I can’t help but think this means the fees are going to increase - especially when I see words like ‘re-aligned’ being used.

I am not quite sure why I joined as an AiT - I think it was a combination of the promise of reduced exam fees and a feeling that it was the done thing.

It’s true that I will pay £405 less in exam fees for my MRCGP (assuming success first time round) than a non-member.

It’s also true that I can offset the AiT fees against tax.

But I pay £1,229 over the three years for these benefits. What do I get for my remaining £824? The fees offer:

  • discounts on books and resources (not used)
  • invitations to AiT events (can’t remember any of these)
  • representation locally and nationally (impossible to put a price on that one)
  • discounted exam fees (I pay £3 for each £1 discount)
  • subscription to InnovAiT and RCGP journals (the InnovAiT journal is well written and relevant)
  • access to the online RCGP learning environment (which I have used and not found terribly useful).

Of all these I think representation of AiTs within the College and the InnovAiT journal are the only ones I really benefit from. I am proud to be a (junior) member of the RCGP - especially when I see and hear Clare Gerada fighting the corner for General Practice but I am not sure I benefit to the tune of £824, especially when added to yearly GMC and BMA fees.

I am interested to hear the outcome of the discussions regarding the AiT fees - I am not convinced an increase in fees can be justified. 

If they are increased, I would suggest that future GP trainees at least think a bit more carefully, about becoming an AiT member than I did, before they sign on the direct debit dotted line.

Dr Michael Kilshaw is an ST2, living and working in Cheltenham. He can be found on Twitter @docmike79.

Readers' comments (12)

  • I guess only you can know if you feel it is worth it. I similarly initially found the RCGP learning environment unhelpful when I was a trainee but I am now pretty certain had I utilised it more as a trainee it would have benefited me considerably. The InnovAiT journal is considerably more useful than the BJGP. I think it really depends how much you value being a member of the college, but if you have paid so far get as much out of it as you can.

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  • Don't you have to have an e-portfolio to be able to register for certification. At around £590 for this ( without membership) this would cut your discrepancy to around £235 after you include exam "savings". Tax can knock a chunk off that so over 3 years probably not that bad. Additionally I think you can gain on tax for the saving in exam fees but not for actual exam fees so that is another small chunk. So when you think carefully not that much difference.

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  • Aside from InnovAiT, it's an utter waste of money. I'm also not sure why trainees should have to pay more when practising GPs have had their subscriptions frozen? Just another example of the RCGP exploiting its trainees for commercial gain. The only reason we pay it is we know the College will fail us if we do not join.

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  • A quarter of College members are AiTs and we have 2 reps on a Council of 70ish. How very democratic of the RCGP! How naive is the AiT Committee to fall into Professor Stokes-Lampard's attempt to increase the already exorbitant fees. I suspect fees will go up to cover the costs of the redundancy payments she has sanctioned.

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  • David Bush

    Crikey guys, if you're that cynical at the start of your careers, wait until you get to my age!
    It is a little worrying to hear the next generation of GP's expressing so much negativity as they enter the profession, but I guess we can all understand why.

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  • Thanks for all your comments. Thomas Caldwell makes a good point about the eportfolio which I had not factored into my maths. The thought of having to pay nearly £600 to use the portfolio does make the alternative more attractive. The point about trainee representation is also well made. I wouldn't say I was cynical in general but the lack of transparency about what is planned engenders that feeling. Plus I'm new to GP but not that new to medicine. Having said that my next blog may reinforce David Bush's view!

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  • Ahmed Halabi

    Im very surprised that you have found the e learning environment not very useful. That stuff is like gold! The learning modules are amazing. The PEP nPEP and online courses are very good. The essential knowledge updates are quite simply essential! I passed my AKT first time with a very respectable (high) score by simply reading the material on that 'not very useful' resource. Many people who have not explored this resource have struggled with the AKT. I have known someone who is doing the AKT for the fourth time and I literally said to him 'dude! are you crazy! read the PEP nPEP EKU, innovait and modules before any of the other mainstream stuff like on- examination that everyone uses' I think times are tough and we are all struggling as trainees but that money is well spent because If you know that core knowledge the RCGP has distributed and apply it in your GP surgery then you have a good chance of passing. It also gives me confidence. Its like exercising in the gym! You will not see the changes on a day to day basis but keep at at and over the months your GP muscles will be bulging and your endurance in exam situations will be olympic! Just saying!

    I was very please when I did the AKT and found similar questions to the ones released by the RCGP that I had revised.

    Check out the online module on substance misuse and tell me if thats not pure gold?

    Or the module on assessing Alcohol consumption with an actual video demonstrating how to conduct an assessment........

    Just some specific examples.

    I just feel it is an under utilised resource and the fact it is being criticised is a little worrying. I would hope that the knowledge I have gained is mainstream because it makes sense. However if it was less expensive then yes that would be the icing on the cake. But like anything in life you pay for what you get!

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  • Ahmed - thanks for the reply. Glad you found the RCGP site so useful - good to get your money's worth. I didn't share your experience and managed to do well in the AKT without it. We'll have to accept our definitions of 'gold' differ. Would you be happy if the fees went up?

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  • Ahmed Halabi

    To be honest Mike 3 years ago when I started £800 odd pounds was not too much to worry about. However with the pay freeze and the cost of living going up recently things are much harder these days. Before I could do some extra AE shifts to cover such costs however with tough exams and assessments its not possible to find the time in ST3. I guess the amount currently spread over 3 years is manageable.

    If the fees were higher I would have to make some tough choices to afford the package.

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  • I think that means we can at least sort of agree about something: namely that we are not convinced an increase in fees is justified?

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