Under plans set out yesterday by health secretary Jeremy Hunt the maximum bill patients will be required to pay towards long-term care will be capped at £75,000 from 2017.
A new means testing threshold will mean that patients will no longer need to be down to their last £23,000 to receive financial support for residential care - the funding will kick in at £123,000.
Mr Hunt said: 'This is a watershed moment for our country. For too long, the issue of social care has been ducked by successive governments, leading to an unfair system that has seen people selling their homes and losing nearly everything they’ve worked for to pay for their care. With us, that unfairness is ending.'
The plans have won cautious support from charities and health experts.
Richard Humphries, senior fellow at The King's Fund, said: 'For the first time, individual liabilities will be limited, protecting people against the worst aspects of the current care lottery. However, a cap of £75,000 will limit the number of people who will benefit from it - this should therefore be seen as a starting point for future governments to reduce the cap over time.'
Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson said: 'It is far more complex from a professional point of view than saying that a funding cap will sort everything out.'
He warned that rising numbers of elderly patients with complex needs were creating an 'almost insatiable demand for health and social care'.
He urged ministers to promote the development of strong primary care teams with links to social care and to address chronic underfunding of carers.