Plans to adequately fund the social care sector need to be in place within a year, the head of the NHS in England has said.
Sir Simon Stevens told the BBC the coronavirus pandemic had shone a “very harsh spotlight” on the “resilience” of the social care system.
He said there was a need to “decisively answer” the question of how high quality care can be provided long-term.
Ministers say extra cash for care homes has been provided during the crisis.
In their 2019 election manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to find a cross-party solution to reform the sector.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Sir Simon said the Covid-19 pandemic should be used to give momentum to plans to overhaul how the system works.
“If any good is to come from this, we must use this as a moment to resolve once and for all to actually properly resource and reform the way in which social care works in this country,” he said.
“The reality is that after at least two decades of talking about it, we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports.”
He added: “I would hope by the time we are sitting down this time next year on the 73rd birthday of the NHS that we have actually, as a country, been able to decisively answer the question of how are we going to fund and provide high-quality social care for my parent’s generation.”
Unlike health care, social care is not generally provided for free. In England, anyone with assets over £23,250 is expected to pay for costs.
Local authorities determine their own means-tests for those receiving care at home, which have to be as generous as the test for care homes.
Free personal care is available in Scotland. Some care costs are capped in Wales, and home care is free for the over-75s in Northern Ireland.
The government has said it has given an extra £3.2bn to councils in England for social care, alongside an additional £600m to control infections in care homes.