A Labour Party plan to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term health conditions has been shelved, and is now expected to reappear as a manifesto pledge in this year's general election.
The move, which was first announced at the Labour Party's 2008 conference, would have affected up to 15 million people and has provoked anger from health service campaign groups and charities.
The shelving of the plan follows the postponement of the publication of an independent review of prescription charges, expected to call for the scrapping of charges for millions of people.
Trade unionists have consistently argued that any prescription charges at all represent a tax on the sick and the further encroachment of private sector mechanisms and thinking into the health service. An Early Day Motion calling on the government to implement the pledge has so far attracted the support of 172 MPs.