Hundreds of patients currently sent abroad for a cancer treatment will soon be able to get it at home, the government has announced.

Andrew Lansley plans to invest up to £250 million in a new proton beam therapy service for the NHS, which he says could benefit up to 1,500 patients a year.

The Christie Foundation Trust Hospital in Manchester and University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust are to be the first facilities to offer the service, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

It is expected that patients will be able to get the service from the sites by 2017. Until then the NHS will continue to fund people to travel abroad to receive the treatment, a DoH spokeswoman said.

Proton beam therapy is a recent technology that uses charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver a dose of radiotherapy for patients suffering from cancer.

The beams can accurately target cancer tumours with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

This helps increase success rates, reduces side-effects and helps patients recover quicker. The therapy is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers.

Mr Lansley said: “Developing a national proton beam therapy service is vital to ensuring our cancer facilities are world class. We have always said that it is patient outcomes which matter, and to get the best for patients we must always be looking to push the boundaries.

“In addition to improved success rates proton beam therapy reduces the side-effects which patients, particularly children, can suffer as a result of traditional forms of cancer treatment.

“Once this service is in place, The Christie and UCLH will boast unparalleled cancer facilities. It will mean more patients will be able to get this treatment, including those for whom travelling abroad for long periods is not possible.”