Nearly 34 million patients will benefit from improved GP services as NHS England boosts the number of surgery-based clinical pharmacists that can offer expert medication and treatment.

The NHS England scheme has proved popular with both patients and GP practices. The new announcement will mean there is further funding for over 160 more pharmacists. Including previously approved posts, it, will increase the number of clinical pharmacists in general practice from around 580 currently working to over 1,100 pharmacists across over 3,200 GP practices – over 40% of surgeries in the country – and a population of nearly 34 million patients, with more planned.

Clinical pharmacists work as part of the general practice team by offering clinical expertise on day-to-day medicine issues and providing consultations with patients directly.

This includes extra help to manage long-term conditions such as high blood pressure earlier and more effectively to prevent cardiovascular disease; advice for those on a variety of medications and offering better access to health checks.

This all delivers quicker access to clinical advice for patients and frees GPs to spend more time attending patients with the greatest needs.

Dr Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England Director of Primary Care, said: “The clinical pharmacist programme has proven to be a hugely popular with practices, patients and pharmacists themselves.

“Clinical pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer great patient care, in a more convenient way and are also taking some of the pressure off GPs, particularly at this time of year when we know demand is even greater than usual.”

NHS England is now encouraging applications to the next wave of the scheme from across the country, with 19 January 2018 the cut-off for inclusion.

NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association’s GP Committee are working with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to support the programme roll out.