The chair of the Royal Commission on Long-Term Care has urged ministers to act swiftly on his team's recommendations.

The government has shied away from endorsing Sir Stewart Sutherland's report and its potentially expensive implications since publication two weeks ago.

It has opted instead to back the commission's call for further 'informed debate', a position reinforced by health minister Baroness Hayman at Laing and Buisson's annual long-term care conference on Monday.

'Devising a system of funding long-term care which is both fair and sustainable, and which can command a consensus across the country, is far from a simple task,' she said.

'We have to listen to the debate initiated by the royal commission.'

Sir Stewart told the Commons health committee last week that he wanted to give the government a steer. 'I want the government to do something and not delay. The status quo is not acceptable. If that is understood then that is our first goal.'

He urged government to take the issue more seriously. 'If the process of comprehensive spending review continues, it is really important that the needs of the elderly have a very high priority, higher than they currently have.'

Baroness Hayman told the London conference that the government was about to issue its promised charter on long-term care for public consultation. She said the new charter, a manifesto commitment, would describe what people can expect from health, housing and social services.

Sir Stewart explained to MPs why his team opted for a general taxation approach to resourcing long-term care, and why he ruled out recommending a single health and care agency.

'We thought the most efficient way to share the risk was a universal scheme of one kind or another. I believe that a universal scheme will most easily drive up standards,' he said.

By contrast, national insurance systems were mistrusted by people in need of care, while the financial cost fell unequally on those in work.

Baroness Hayman said the most fundamental conclusion in the commission's report was that 'there is no unmanageable demographic time-bomb ticking away'.

She said we had already lived through a 'time-bomb', as the proportion of people aged 65 and over had increased fourfold since the turn of the century.

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