But patients in the early stages of the illness who live over the border must raise the £47,000 cost themselves because their primary care trust will not foot the bill, Owen Paterson, the Conservative MP for North Shropshire, said.

Since February, all Welsh local health boards have agreed to pay for the drug for women in Wales who need it, even if they are treated over the border. But its use in England is largely restricted to patients in an advanced stage of the illness because the drug is still to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the body responsible for recommending drugs for clinical use. A decision is expected within months.

Mr Paterson claimed this still left "a classic postcode lottery" at the Royal Shrewsbury. But Patrica Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, has urged health trusts not to turn down patients for treatment with Herceptin on the basis of cost alone.

A spokeswoman for Shropshire and Staffordshire Strategic Health Authority said: "The routine use of Herceptin will be introduced when and if Nice guidance is published. But a clinician may ask a PCT to approve the use of Herceptin in exceptional personal circumstances."