AS we head, quickly, into an unexpected General Election, there is a real danger that it will be dominated by debate on issues like Brexit and Scottish Independence.

Important and significant as these are, we cannot allow them to overshadow domestic issues like social care during the election.

I want to see this as a social care General Election for a very good reason, as in my view we as a country are currently failing our most vulnerable citizens and they deserve better.

Government after government has failed to grasp the nettle of how we fund social care in this country, hiding behind reports and commissions and never delivering real change. We cannot let them get away with it again.

At the moment social care is at the heart of a perfect storm, of rising demand for higher and higher standards of care, falling funding from cash-strapped care commissioners, including local authorities and increasingly dire staff shortages, especially nurses.

Age UK report that 1.2m people are now living with an unmet care need, whilst care homes and home care providers are closing regularly.

Unless something is done, it is set to get worse, with up to a quarter of care homes said to be at risk of closure. More and more people are not going to get the care they need. These are our parents and relatives, our friends, our neighbours and, one day, ourselves.

My social care manifesto is simple: a root and branch overhaul of the way we plan and fund social care.

We have to merge NHS health care and social care into one body, a National Care and Health Service, so that we provide proper care for people from the cradle to the grave. Efforts to integrate the two have begun but don’t go far enough.

Following on from that we need a fundamental re-think on how we fund social care. The £2bn announced at the budget simply isn’t enough and like similar amounts pledged before, will be swallowed up by the impact of the National Living Wage on care providers. Unpalatable as it might be, we might have to increase taxes, as we have to accept that if we want to look after this sector of the population at a standard they deserve, we will have to pay for it.

Incentives have to be found to get providers to invest and improve standards – maybe via grants or loans. Take the VAT issue for example. It doesn’t seem to make sense that care providers have to pay VAT but, unlike other businesses, cannot charge VAT to offset the expense.

We need consistency of fees across the country and so a national rate for care fees seems obvious.

Let’s lift some of the inspection burden off providers. The CQC has wide and ever-growing powers of inspection and that is sufficient for the sector. We don’t need NHS and local authority inspections duplicating that process at the taxpayers’ expense.

Maybe we have to look at the whole model of how we deliver social care in this country? GPs operate as individual businesses but are paid according to the area of population they care for. Could we develop a similar model for social care provision based on catchment areas?

But above all we have to make it a sector that people want to work in. At the moment there is a real crisis in the staffing of social care. More than 900 adult social care workers a day left their job in England last year, some 338,520 during 2015-16. We know what a fantastic job they do and we have to find a way to pay them better and give them the professional status, standing and respect they deserve.

How about setting a minimum wage for social care workers, above the National Living Wage? And let’s have state registration for social care staff, as we do for nurses. Attracting and retaining good staff is fundamental to social care provision and at the moment it is failing. Until we get that right we won’t be able to deliver good, compassionate and consistent care across the country.

Somehow, amidst the chaos of a build-up to the General Election, we have to get the message out that social care needs to be an issue. Too often in the past it has been a throw-away line, an afterthought. We need proper manifesto pledges set out by all parties on what they will do about how we care for older people for generations to come. We need an end to the talk, reports and commissions and we need action.

We mustn’t let this election go by without seeking change and so when would-be MPs come to your door, ask what they will do about social care?

Otherwise before we know it the election will have come and gone and social care will have gone to the bottom of the priority list once again.