When I was young my local council lost the equivalent of about £40m in today's money when the bank BCCI collapsed.

Looking back, it seems to me that life changed overnight. School milk was stopped, trips for pensioners cancelled, councillors sent out to raise a few extra bob by getting a paper round... I don't know how it affected the good name of the council nationally but it certainly left their local reputation in tatters - and local council tax payers feeling the pinch.

As the NHS is sometimes thought to have the financial skills of a five year old, there is a sense of schadenfreude in watching councils' financial "planning" exposed. Or there would be if it didn't mean council tax bills might rocket. As I write, trusts appear to have been largely untouched; let's hope it stays that way.

I don't pretend to understand the financial markets and remain baffled as to why tax payers have to bail out the actions of those, it seems to me, who are guided only by greed. And the fact that billions of pounds can be found to shore up banks but fractions of those sums can't be found to stop two-thirds of the world going hungry or stop women bleeding to death in childbirth makes me throw up my hands in horror.

Public generosity

But no-one seems to be discussing the credit crunch in those terms. Most of the philanthropic murmurings I have heard come from the emerging panic of numerous charitable organisations reliant on public generosity for income.

My memories of the last, early 1990s, recession are a bit hazy. Since my parents worked in the health service their jobs were safe, and at the time I was a teenager and too wrapped up in myself to notice much about the outside world. And my memories of the 1980s crash are confined to a Specials video and World in Action episodes that showed people scrabbling around in landfill sites for things to sell.

But having been cheerfully informed that neither of these recessions were the real thing and that we have to revisit the 1970s for that, I wait with grim fascination to see how people will cope. If we are all going to have to learn to live within our means, some major social shifts are going to be needed. But will the expectations of the NHS shift, too?