Proposals to give patients the legal right to private treatment if the NHS cannot provide care quickly enough, the right to die at home and the right to NHS dentistry are set to be revealed by the government.

The proposals, set out in a consultation on the NHS constitution, would give patients the legal right to treatment within 18 weeks of referral by their GP. Patients with suspected cancer would have the right to be seen within two weeks.

In cases where the NHS was unable to treat patients quickly enough, staff would have to provide alternatives, such as treatment at private hospitals. The government says measures such as these will ensure patients around the country receive a more even standard of care.

Health secretary Andrew Burnham said: “Waiting times are the shortest they have ever been but I want to build on this and give patients a legal right to maximum waiting times.

“Turning targets into legal rights will empower patients and guarantee them the same high standards of care, regardless of where they live.”

The Tories have pledged to phase out NHS targets and focus on measuring health outcomes.