Health and social care workers are faced with “fragmented services” and “unprecedented pressure”, Jeremy Hunt admitted as he set out plans for reform.
The Health and Social Care Secretary said fixing the problems in the system would take time and acknowledged there had been “stalled reform programmes” in the past.
Mr Hunt said a Green Paper on the Government’s plans would be published in the summer, with one of its key principles being a sustainable funding model.
The question of how to fund care for Britain’s ageing population has proved politically difficult to answer, with Theresa May forced into an embarrassing U-turn over planned reforms announced during the 2017 general election campaign.
Setting out his approach, Mr Hunt told an audience of health and social care leaders: “Too many people experience care that is not of the quality we would all want for our own mum or dad. ”
He continued: “We need a relentless and unswerving focus on providing the highest standards of care – whatever a person’s age or condition.
“This means a commitment to tackle poor care with minimum standards enforced throughout the system, so that those using social care services are always kept safe and treated with the highest standards of dignity and compassion.
“Resolving this will take time. But that must not be an excuse to put off necessary reforms.
“Nor must it delay the debate we need to have with the public about where the funding for social care in the future should come from – so the Green Paper will jump-start this vital debate.”
Other principles set out in the Green Paper include: the quality and safety of services, the integration of the health and social care systems, control for those receiving support, valuing the workforce, providing better practical support for families and carers and ensuring greater security for all.
“Innovation will be central to all of these principles: we will not succeed unless the systems we establish embrace the changes in technology and medicine that are profoundly reshaping our world,” he said.
“By reforming the system in line with these principles everyone – whatever their age – can be confident in our care and support system.
“Confident that they will be in control, confident that they will have quality care and confident that wider society will support them.”
The Cabinet minister set out plans for a joint 10-year NHS and social care workforce strategy to align staff in both parts of the system.
He also announced a consultation to extend rights to integrated personal budgets to those with the greatest ongoing social care needs to put more control in the hands of individuals and their families.
And he set out plans for a £1 million pilot scheme in Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire to ensure users of adult social care are given a joint health and social care assessment and care plan.
The Tory election campaign suffered a setback after the manifesto ditched plans to impose a cap on care costs – only for the Prime Minister to reinstate the option of an upper limit days later without specifying at what level it would be set.
The manifesto had set out plans – dubbed the “dementia tax” by critics – to include the value of elderly people’s properties when calculating how much they should pay towards the cost of care at home, as well as residential care.
But it guaranteed that no-one would see the value of their estate shrink below £100,000 as a result of care costs .
A cap was the central recommendation of the 2011 Dilnot Report into care funding and was due for introduction at a level of around £72,000 in 2020 – but that commitment was dropped in December.