Disgraced Tory Liam Fox was condemned by trade unionists today after he called for even deeper cuts.
The former defence secretary urged Chancellor George Osborne to put health, education and foreign aid funding on the chopping block.
Mr Fox echoed the criticism by Tory backbenchers of the way some departments have had part of their funding protected, while others - including the Ministry of Defence - have endured the full force of Mr Osborne's axe attack.
Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable also called for an end to ring-fencing, claiming that it led to an "unbalanced" approach to public spending.
"It means that all future pressures then come on things like the army, the police, local government, skills and universities," he told the BBC's Today programme.
But Unison branded the claim that NHS funding had been protected "an illusion" and said that the government was already taking the axe to vital services.
"Patients, nurses, doctors and health staff will be appalled to hear government ministers calling for cuts in NHS spending," said Unison health chief Christina McAnea.
"The NHS is under severe financial strain and the public are not fooled by claims that spending on health" had been protected.
"The ring-fence is an illusion when in reality jobs are going, NHS trusts are being told they must make £20 billion in so-called efficiency savings, when the costs of treatment and drugs keeps on rising and when we have a growing elderly population that needs more medical treatment."
Labour Party vice-chairman Michael Dugher said that Mr Fox and Home Secretary Theresa May were using the run-up to the Budget as "a hustings for a future Tory leadership contest rather than focusing on the real challenges facing families up and down the country."
He said that the government must focus on "getting the economy moving again" but "instead we have a weak Prime Minister and a Conservative Party showing once again that it is focused on the party interest, not the national interest."
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