England's chief medical officer has called for a "much closer relationship" between the NHS and social care providers.
Dame Sally Davies said the health service must shift its focus from treating illness to helping to care for people with long term and chronic problems.
It comes as the British Medical Association warned that health and social care services are "cracking under the weight" of having to prop one another up amid a funding crisis.
Speaking during her slot as guest editor on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Dame Sally said it is in the interest of patients to look again at the care system.
She said: "What I would say about the NHS is it was set up in the late 40s as an illness service, and we now need to move from just treating illness to supporting people - both around their lifestyle and with chronic diseases as we decline, as young or as old people.
"And we are going to have to change how the NHS works in itself, which is what the Government is trying to do as a matter of fact - move more patients to be looked after in the community.
"And build this relationship with social care - some call it integration - but it needs to be a much closer relationship, in the interests of the people."
Theresa May is reportedly preparing to allow local authorities to raise council tax to help cover some of the social care funding black hole.
But some have warned the move will not bring in enough money to tackle the crisis and will create a postcode lottery where poorer boroughs have worse care.
Dame Sally also called for the steady phasing out of diesel cars, which give off toxic pollution.
She told the programme: "I think we need to steadily phase them out. There is good evidence of that pollution, but you can't do things overnight.
"I'm pleased to say when we replaced our car a few years ago we did buy petrol.
"But all of these things are open to both regulation and they are open to individual behaviour. And the big issue for us is how do we change behaviours? Not just the public's but our own."