All cancer patients will get free prescriptions from next year, Gordon Brown has told Labour’s conference in Manchester.
The Prime Minister also pledged that health charges will eventually be scrapped for any patient suffering any long-term condition.
That means illnesses that impacts on the quality of life and which cannot be cured, but can be controlled through medication and other therapies.
The move – which immediately takes 250,000 people out of NHS prescription charges rising to five million in the longer term – was welcomed by campaigners.
It will cost £20 million over the next year and £300 million a year over the long-term as more conditions are covered. It is expected to save many patients £100-a-year or more.
The government will consult with clinicians, stakeholders and patient groups to work out which conditions will be covered. The current prescription charge in England is £7.10 per item.
The move follows an announcement by the Scottish government as it plans to phase out all prescription charges by 2011. Prescriptions are already free in Wales.
The cost of free prescriptions in England will be covered by savings made in the NHS budget by switching from branded to generic drugs and increased use of bulk-buying.
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