Government plans to provide free care for the elderly will be funded by cuts in the NHS research and development and promotions budgets, Health Secretary Andy Burnham says.
The Social Care Bill, a cornerstone in the government's election strategy, will "ring-fence" money destined for research work on "health priorities" – such as cancer and dementia – but swingeing cuts will be made.
Mr Burnham told The Times he planned to pay for care by diverting £60m from his department's R&D budget and £50m from public health promotions.
Cutting spending on management consultants would provide £60m, while further funds would come from a productivity drive intended to secure £20bn of savings across the NHS over the next four years.
A Department of Health spokesman claimed the cuts would not affect the NHS's ability to produce world-class research and treatment.
"We can categorically state that cancer and dementia funding will not be affected," a statement said.
"We are now providing more funding than ever for health research. This £1bn budget is ring-fenced for research."
The £670m-a-year bill, which the prime minister is hoping can be rushed on to the statute books in the six months left before the general election, guarantees free personal care at home for up to 280,000 elderly and disabled people with the highest needs, while another 130,000 will receive other help, including adaptations to their properties, to allow them to remain at home for longer.
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"The team dedicated to public health is massive. They are forever coming up with new initiatives to 'help' people live healthier/happier lives. Unfortunately, the evidence that this investment pays off is almost non-existent. We still have very high rates of smokers, teenage preg, obesity and just generally lots of people who basically do not care about their own wellbeing. Yes, perhaps the money would be better spent on other care" – Marie, Lancs
"Another pre-election ploy?" – William Neal, Eastbourne
"Cutting spending on management consultants is the right way to go! However, sensible spending on research must continue" – Michael May, Bournemouth