Sir John Oldham, England's clinical lead for quality and productivity, urged the NHS to 'get real' about how it helps patients with complex needs.
Speaking at the Primary Care Live event in London last week, he said: 'We put a lot of energy and effort into dealing with people with long-term conditions, but not in the right direction.
'We focus almost exclusively on disease-specific pathways. These pathways are a redundant strategy for the future, because that is not what the majority of people deal with.'
Sir John said many people have several long-term conditions, not just one.
He said a new approach should help patients with complex needs to self-manage through e-learning and remote monitoring.
Self management of long-term conditions was not a luxury, but a necessity, Sir John told the conference.