All 1.6 million people who have or have had cancer are to be offered free one-to-one care in their homes from a personal nurse under plans announced by Gordon Brown.

The proposals are expected to be a key plank of Labour’s general election manifesto as the party promises to “personalise” public services.

Officials believe the shift in approach could save the government £2.7bn a year

In a speech to the King’s Fund, the prime minister will say that within the next five years he wants to ensure every cancer patient has access to home treatment and advice from a specialist nurse.

The move would be part of a wider drive to reform community healthcare, giving people the option of chemotherapy and dialysis without having to travel to a clinic or hospital and making it easier to access palliative care and care for the elderly at home.

Officials believe the shift in approach could save the government £2.7bn a year by improving the management of patients with long term conditions and reducing hospital admissions and emergency incidents.

Mr Brown said it was not enough to have “targets” for providing care to those who need it.

“To be truly free of worry, to be able get on with your lives, you need firm assurances,” he said.

“And in health, our support means offering guarantees not gambles - including treatment within 18 weeks and being seen by a cancer specialist within two.

“We’ll also ensure everyone has dignity and security in their old age.”

Free personal care is set to be an important element of Labour’s general election manifesto. Mr Brown outlined his plans at his party’s conference last autumn, and a bill was included in the Queen’s Speech.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We support the principle of giving every cancer patient their own nurse. But I am surprised that Labour are able to find money to fund this new pledge when they are planning to cut the NHS budget.

“Gordon Brown needs to make clear to patients which other schemes he plans to cut in order to fund this new initiative.”