He said he hoped that by the time the UK was celebrating the NHS’s 73rd birthday, a year from now, “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.”

The current government and several predecessors have promised reform of social care, and an end to the sales of homes to fund care home places, but decisions on any specific policies have been repeatedly deferred. 

“If you’ve got a situation where a quarter of your social care staff are on zero hours contracts, where you’ve got one third churn in employment each year, that is not the preconditions for being able to provide high quality care for older people,” Sir Simon said. 

The NHS chief said he was “in dialogue” with the Treasury about securing extra funds to cover ongoing costs of the Covid crisis, and the need to keep beds on standby. 

Sir Simon said the chancellor had provided “the additional funding that we have needed through this coronavirus pandemic” with ongoing discussions about the future needs of the NHS.

He did not respond to claims that he had asked the Treasury for a further £10bn – a figure the Health Secretary said he did not recognise. 

The NHS chief said: “all the signs are that we will continue to get the support that we need”.

Sir Simon said the NHS drew up its plans to respond to Covid based on forecasts that as many as 2 million people might need hospital care, including 660,000 in need of intensive care.

In fact, fewer than 130,000 such admissions occurred. But Britain’s death rates from Covid are among the highest in Europe. 

Sir Simon suggested Britain’s high rates of obesity may have contributed to the toll. Six in ten adults are overweight or obese, with the highest obesity rates in Western Europe.

We know for example that obesity doubles your chance of dying from coronavirus. Unfortunately we are carrying too many pounds as a country so there is a strong case for using the experience of coronavirus to tackle some of these long standing broader health problems and, get serious about prevention including, frankly, obesity.”

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