The number of GP commissioning consortia that will be formed as primary care trusts are scrapped is likely to be as low as 350, research suggests.

An analysis by GP newspaper has discovered that GPs from eight of the ten strategic health have grouped into around 260 consortia, suggesting there will be 300 to 350 nationwide.

The figure has been described by a government adviser as “frighteningly similar” to the original number of PCTs. There were 302 of these before mergers in 2006 created the current set of 152.

Dr James Kingsland, DH national clinical commissioning network lead, said commissioning reforms could fail. He warned that GPs needed to form smaller groups to make sure individual practices were actively involved in commissioning decisions.

However, he also suggested that numbers would shift significantly by 2013, when PCTs are to be abolished.

When the government announced its massive reorganisation of the NHS last summer, it was suggested as many as 600 consortia covering populations of around 100,000 would be set up.

Dr Kingsland suggested that larger groups were being formed because of fears about managing financial risks across smaller populations.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said it was likely consortia were either forming into groups of around 100,000 or groups of 500,000 patients.

He added: “It seems people are opting to be either small and locally responsive or large with greater financial stability. Hopefully people won’t compromise and have sizes covering 200,000-400,000 as it achieves neither.”

GP newspaper obtained figures from eight SHAs with figures as yet unknown in NHS East Midlands and NHS South Central.