Patients will be expected to see their GPs in groups of up to 15 under plans being considered by the NHS.
Doctors said group consultations should become "the default" option offered by surgeries for many conditions, in an attempt to cope with growing shortages of GPs.
The scheme is expected to be included in the NHS 10-year plan which is due to be published later this year, the Daily Telegraph reports.
It is billed as an attempt to alleviate strain on family doctors, many of whom complain of being overworked.
But patients' groups said people would feel "incredibly uncomfortable" discussing personal matters with large groups of strangers, with one saying "you might as well tell the town crier".
Group appointments of between 10-15 people with the same condition have been piloted in Slough in Berkshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Northumberland. Doctors at the Royal College of GPs' annual conference yesterday said the groups were a "fun and efficient" way to carry out consultations with patients who shared the same conditions.
Doctors using group consultations said they had proved far more efficient at dealing with a host of heath complaints, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity and even treatment of erectile dysfunction.
GPs involved in the schemes said they reduced the amount of time they spent repeating the same advice.
They said the sessions also meant patients had more time – up to 90 minutes – to discuss their health with fellow sufferers, even if it only included two minutes' direct conversation with their GP. Under the system, patients will spend much of their time with a "facilitator" – a receptionist, clerk or healthcare assistant with a day's training – who can point them to advice on their health condition, the conference was told.
Other time would be spend discussing their health problems with others "in the same boat" who might be able to share tips, GPs said. Dr Emily Symington, from Croydon, south London, said: "The practices who have had the best success with group consultations are those that have taken the plunge and made group consultations the default method of care for certain long-term conditions."
GPs said patients were given forms telling them to respect confidentiality, and told: "What's said in the room stays in the room; don't go discussing it with the postman and his dog."
Some patients' groups reacted with horror. Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: "This is a ghastly idea. GP appointments are supposed to be a private matter where you can openly talk about your most personal health issues. If you're discussing things in front of a group of strangers, you might as well tell the local town crier so he can shout it from the rooftops."
Dr Fraser Birrell, a rheumatology consultant at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation trust, said the schemes also worked in hospital consultations, and in pharmacies, with one scheme for osteoporosis proving "300 per cent" more efficient. Patients with erectile dysfunction had even signed up for group sessions, he said.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said shared sessions might benefit some patients, but that people must not be denied the right to individual appointments.