Ministers are currently having that hardest of lessons about the NHS rammed down their throats - namely, that no matter how much money you allocate to it, sooner or later (usually sooner) it will raise a cacophonous clamour for even more.

Despite what the chancellor believed in the summer to be a bumper handout for the next three years, the Treasury is now being assailed on all sides to fund the nurses' pay award. The government is traduced in the Commons by the Opposition for reducing the service to such a parlous state that 'rationing' is now the word on every citizen's lips. And the leader writers are peddling their well-worn simple-as-that solutions of fees for visiting the GP, hotel charges for hospital stays and tax relief for private health insurance. In short, it's deja vu and plus ca change.

During the Tory years there was always the prospect of a bigger role for the private sector or more charging, neither of which were solutions, but contemplating them enabled ministers to look as though they were doing something. Labour has no such options to tinker with. Which is one reason why it may just find the money.