The health secretary has denied considering a new £20,000 death duty to pay for radical reform of social care for the elderly.

Andy Burnham accused the Conservatives of using the complicated issue of care reform to frighten voters as he insisted a flat rate inheritance levy was not on the agenda.

But he was careful not to rule out any options and would only say that further details would be set out before the general election.

Mr Burnham said that by then there would be “firm proposals for change” in a social care white paper.

Ministers want to overhaul a social care system which often forces elderly people to sell their homes to pay for support in their final years.

Mr Burnham’s comments came after The Guardian reported that the government might endorse a compulsory inheritance tax, of about £20,000 per head, before polling day.

“I’m not currently considering that as a lead option for reform,” he told a Westminster press conference.

“That figure was used in the green paper last year but I do not believe that a flat levy of that kind would be the right way to go.

“I can say to you very categorically today that that is not what I am considering.

“However, I will not pre-judge the discussions that we will need to conclude as we prepare a white paper on reform of social care in England.”

The health secretary added that the government had still not decided between three models of reform that were set out in last year’s green paper.

They include a “partnership” model, with people getting some but not all of their care costs covered; a “voluntary insurance” model, with people choosing whether to cover their care costs; and a “compulsory” model, with people having to contribute in return for all of their care costs being met.