Lack of planning for later life and a rapidly growing elderly population will see already stretched health and social care services pushed to breaking point.
That was the conclusion of a new survey, Situation Critical, which found that two-thirds of the 2,500 people questioned said they expected to receive high quality care funded by the government.
Highlighting the pressure future governments will be under to deliver on this expectation, just 30% of those surveyed said they would be willing to accept lower quality state social care.
One in eight participants anticipate that their children will cover the costs of their later life care, while only 10% of participants say they would use a private insurance policy to pay for home care bills.
With the number of those aged over 85 forecast to almost double in the next 20 years, the knock-on effect of such lack of planning will only increase pressure on current adult social care systems.
The Situation Critical survey formed the centerpiece of discussions at this year's Astellas Innovation Debate, held at the Royal Institution in London last month.
Commenting on what this means for the UK's health service, former minister for health - and one of those in attendance at the event - Paul Bustow said: “The NHS can only be sustainable if there is a functioning social care system too.
“The poll for the debate reveals a worrying fatalism about the state of social care. A bankrupt care system will undermine the NHS.”
The Astellas Innovation Debate featured a panel of four international healthcare experts, along with an audience of 350 healthcare figures, discussing demands on UK and global health services caused by ageing populations.
Debate panelist and former Dutch health minister, Professor Ab Klink commented that alongside mental health, care for the elderly commands the highest government spending in the Netherlands.
“Productivity”, Klink said, is the current focus of health care when instead it needs to be what is best not only for the patient, but for the care system as a whole.
How the NHS copes with this material and financial demand for later and end of life care is a “prime public consultation issue”, says Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the English NHS between 2006 and 2014 and another panelist.
“People do not fit into bureaucratic compartments and neither should funding,” he added. “The NHS and social care are two sides of the same coin: one cannot be successful at the cost of the other.”
Agreeing with Nicholson, Norman Lamb, health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, called for public engagement in non-partisan politics to address the need for a truly “integrated care system” in the UK.
Lack of awareness, both about the cost and varying benefit of health and social care, was a key concern among the panelists, with Prof. Klink advocating the need for a greater sharing of information between healthcare professionals, patients and the public about the choices available.
The survey revealed that 29% of participants thought a day in a residential care homes costs less than £70 per day when in reality costs average at £97 per day, with some nursing homes charging up to £128 daily.
The findings follow a UK government announcement that a pledge to cap residential care costs at £72,000 per person has been pushed back to 2020.
The general consensus among the Innovation Debate's panelists was that first step to easing the straining healthcare services and diffusing the oncoming “time bomb” in later life care is public awareness about the financial realities.