The health secretary has called for a “culture of co-operation” across the health and social care systems, saying that too many people are “falling between the cracks”.

Jeremy Hunt said that the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes “beggars belief”.

In his second speech as health secretary, Mr Hunt also said that there was a lack of communication between different parts of the health system.

He said that GP practices were not talking to hospitals and hospitals were not communicating between each other.

As a result, patients with the “loudest voices and the sharpest elbows” often got the best treatment, he said.

Speaking at the National Children’s and Adults’ Services Conference in Eastbourne, East Sussex, he said: “We need a culture of co-operation across health and social care, with the individual needs of the people that we are responsible for at its heart.

“The old structures have not worked well enough. With GP practices not talking to hospitals, hospitals not talking to each other, and the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes beggaring belief.

“This lack of openness and communication, of trust, means that too many people simply fall between the cracks.

“All too often those with the loudest voices and the sharpest elbows, or at least those who have parents or children with those elbows or voices, are the ones who get the best treatment.”

He added: “Good things happen when the NHS and councils come together. But all too often this happens despite the system, not because of it.”

He said that changes implemented by the Health and Social Care Act provided the opportunity to bring together care systems.

Mr Hunt said that he wanted to make Britain one of the best countries in Europe to grow old.

But some delegates accused him of not making any commitments on the Dilnot cap on care.

The Dilnot commission on the funding of care and support recommended that the amount of money people pay towards the cost of their care in old age should be capped at £35,000.

Mr Hunt said: “The Dilnot cap, which we and I strongly support, we are committed to introducing as soon as we are financially able.”

He also outlined his top priorities as health secretary.

He said that he wanted to ensure Britain had the best survival rates in Europe for the “big killer diseases” such as cancer, and heart, liver and respiratory diseases.

He also wanted to improve care for people living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis, and to “transform” care for dementia patients.

He also pledged £50 million to help hospitals and care homes become more dementia friendly.

The funding will be used to create calming surroundings that will help avoid confusion.

The money could be used to create hi-tech sensory rooms or specially adapted outdoor spaces, or it could be used for simple measures such as creating large print signs or providing photos of local scenes from years gone by to help sufferers feel connected to their past.

He told delegates: “Carers tell us time and time again that when it comes to hospitals, care homes or other settings, it’s often small things - whether clear signage, light and airy rooms or good handrails - that make a big difference.

“Whilst you could say that this is not a huge sum of money relative to the challenge, if it helps make some of those small things better it will be transformational.”