A survey of 151 GPs by Lloyds Bank found a significant increase in the formation and membership of federations, with 73% of those surveyed saying they are in or planning to join one.
However, of the almost half of GPs who said they are already members of a federation, just a quarter said the organisation was active.
Findings from the Lloyds poll come just months after research by the Nuffield Trust showed a huge surge in GPs joining federations to work 'at scale'.
The annual Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking healthcare confidence index found GP optimism about the future was growing slightly. Scoring on a 'dispersement index' - which operates on a scale from -100 to +100, with any figure greater than zero representing a positive outlook - the survey found that short-term confidence rose slightly from -23 in 2014 to -20 in 2015, with long-term optimism remaining low at -76, up from -80 the previous year.
GPs overwhelmingly expect the financial squeeze on practices to get worse, with 88% predicting rising costs over the next five years. While just 13% say current list sizes will remain at current levels, as the trend towards larger, merged practices continues.
Family Doctor Association chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said: 'With so many practical and organisational pressures on GPs, it is difficult to see where the improvement in confidence is going to come from.
'Going forward I would expect a shift from local GP surgeries towards larger centres with bigger patient lists, and looking ahead I can only see a significant rise in confidence occurring when measures are introduced to support general practice.'
Three quarters of both GPs and pharmacists surveyed expect the two professions to work more closely together in future, with 42% of GPs expecting pharmacists to be working in practices in the next five years.
Future of general practice
However, despite the uncertainty about the future, more than half 953%) of the GPs polled said they would still recommend the careers to their children or family members, although that number is down from 59% the previous year.
Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s head of healthcare Ian Crompton said: ‘Despite a small increase in short-term confidence, GPs remain the most pessimistic of the professions surveyed. Given the extensive reforms they are facing, it comes as little surprise that they have reservations about the future of the sector.’