Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is reportedly set to back controversial plans to let dying patients in England and Wales be treated with untested drugs.

The Medical Innovation Bill was proposed by former advertising guru Lord Saatchi, who lost his wife to cancer in 2011. Its premise is to seek clarification in law that it would not be negligent for a doctor to deviate from standard practice in treating a serious or life-threatening condition if the decision to do so is taken responsibly and is in the patient's best interest.

The proposed bill has been amended to require doctors to get the agreement of another specialist to prescribing the drugs. That and other safeguards has led the Department of Health to give its support, according to the Telegraph, and the bill will be debated by the House of Lords on Friday.

Lord Saatchi told the Telegraph that in dealing with the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation “has decided that departure from standard evidence-based treatment is fully justified and essential. It has set ethical guidelines for the use of new therapies and interventions - they are identical to the provisions of the Medical Innovation Bill."

A Department of Health spokesman told the Telegraph that “innovation is at the heart of modernising the NHS and is essential for improving treatments and finding new cures and work on the Medical Innovation Bill is ongoing. We are pleased that Lord Saatchi has tabled amendments to the Bill to help ensure patient and staff safety”.