Prime minister Gordon Brown has pledged to “beat cancer in this generation”.

Speaking at his last Labour Party conference before next year’s general election, he announced plans to give cancer patients the right to diagnostic tests within a week of seeing their GP.

For us the NHS hasn’t been a 16 year mistake it has been a 16 year long liberation

The pledge contrasted with the policies of the Conservative Party, which would scrap the right to see a cancer specialist within two weeks, he said.

He recounted a letter from a mother from Rubgy, whose breast cancer was detected early as part of an enhanced screening programme.

“If we’ve changed one life we’ve changed the world,” he said.

Stressing the Labour Party’s commitment to the NHS, he told delegates: “The NHS is the best insurance policy in the world.”

He added: “For us the NHS hasn’t been a 16 year mistake it has been a 16 year long liberation.”

Referring to a campaign launched on social networking site Twitter following Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s criticism of the health service abroad, Mr Brown said: “Countries from every continent look to our NHS for inspiration.

“This summer didn’t we show we love the NHS?”

There would be free personal care for elderly people with the highest level of need, he said, which they would experience in their own homes.

In addition, three quarters of GP practices would be open out of hours, with every patient enjoying the right to see their GP in the evening and on weekends.

Mr Brown said: “Labour fought for the NHS. We fought it and because we did we’re saving lives every day, we should be very very proud of what we have achieved.”