As the country's biggest employer and a tenth of the economy, the NHS has an major role to play in helping us all weather the recession.

A good example of how the health service can help is the initiative by NHS North West, along with the region's councils and other public sector bodies, to support the local workforce and businesses.

The strategic health authority is pushing NHS organisations to pay their bills promptly and use local suppliers where possible, as well as examining an idea to create a regional public sector apprenticeship programme.

These simple ideas make a difference. As a taxpayer funded organisation the NHS has a responsibility to do what it can to support businesses and working people as literally thousands of companies go to the wall.

Accelerating capital projects is perhaps the biggest difference the NHS could make. Ministerial statements to this effect make it sound easy, while any manager involved knows procurement and tendering procedures largely defy attempts to speed them up. Nonetheless, even modest improvements could make a big difference to construction firms if replicated across the country.