Gordon Brown has told the Labour Party conference that patients with long-term conditions are to receive free prescriptions.
He told delegates in Manchester that prescription charges for cancerpatients will be scrapped throughout the course of next year inEngland, with the overall aim of phasing out charges for all patientswith long-term conditions.
The decision over which conditions will be covered is to be made afterconsultations with clinicians, stakeholders and patient groups.
At present, long-term conditions are defined as those that cannot becured but can be controlled through medication and other therapies andwhich have an impact on a person's quality of life.
The move, which immediately takes about 250,000 people out of NHSprescription charges rising to five million in the longer term, hasbeen welcomed by campaigners.
Mr Brown said: "Because we know that almost every British family hasbeen touched by cancer, Alan Johnson and I know we must do more torelieve the financial worry that so often goes alongside the heartache,so our plan is next year to abolish all prescription charges foreveryone with cancer.
"And this is not the limit of our commitment to a fair NHS. In the longterm, as the NHS generates cash savings in its drugs budget, we willplough them back into abolishing charges for all patients withlong-term conditions."
The change is estimated to cost Â£20m over the next year, risingto Â£300m a year over the long-term as more conditions arecovered.