GP confidence in the future of the healthcare sector is very low, according to a new Healthcare Index published by Lloyds TSB Commercial.
The outlook of GPs was the least positive of the three primary healthcare providers researched, followed by pharmacists and then dentists.
The report suggest GPs are uncertain about the proposed NHS reforms and how these will affect their profit margins.
Based on a combined ‘Confidence Index’ drawn from a number of questions, where any figure greater than zero represents a positive outlook and figures below indicate a negative one (the maximum value achievable is plus 100 and minus 100), GPs registered minus 61.
This compared to minus 50 for pharmacists and minus 26 for dentists.
The vast majority (94%) of GPs are expecting further financial pressures over the next five years and 92% anticipate increased competition in the marketplace over the same period.
Nearly half (49%) of GPs are split over whether a move to commissioning groups is a good thing. While those who have definitely made up their minds are mostly against, a high proportion says they don’t know or express some uncertainty to their conclusions.
And GPs’ collective long-term confidence (gauged over five years) falls even further to minus 81.
The report also found that consolidation is expected: 82% of GPs expect a rise in the number of larger practices, potentially as a response to the formation of commissioning groups.
Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services for Lloyds TSB Commercial, said: “One of the most telling answers we received was that the vast majority of GP practices have yet to formally address partnership agreements.
“The fact that a quarter of all GP practices have no such formal partnership agreement and 11% don’t even know if they have one, are worrying statistics for a sector entering a new era of financial responsibility.”