NHS England has approved funding for further 160 surgery-based pharmacist posts.

It means that the total of clinical pharmacists working across more than 3,200 GP practices will increase from around 580 to more than 1,100, covering a population of nearly 34 million patients.

A pilot programme to get pharmacists to work in general practice was initially launched in July 2015 but after a few months, funding rose from the initial £15m to £31m, which benefited around 700 practices.

Given the popularity of the programme, a new central investment of £112m was implemented with the General Practice Forward View (GPFV), to guarantee those practices initially not in the pilot would benefit from the scheme. The programme is set to bring a further 1,500 pharmacists in general practice by 2020.

Practices that have a clinical pharmacist allow their GPs to spend more time dealing with patients with greatest needs.

According to a NHS England case study, one practice in Devon managed to reduce the need for GP appointments by 30% and save around 400 hours of GP time per year by having a clinical pharmacist on site.

GP and NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvind Madan 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.’