The NHS is reliving its own history. Government papers released to the National Archives reveal that 30 years ago ministers were facing eerily familiar pressures: a recession, plunging support, rising unemployment and demand, the need to improve the NHS with little or no new cash, and a big idea about making the service more patient centred.

Jim Callaghan’s embattled government wanted to trigger “a big debate” on the NHS. Sadly Lord Darzi was still a teenager so the idea never got off the ground.

Ministers such as health and social security secretary David Ennals fretted at the lack of credit they were getting for improvements, and agonised over how to close hospitals as services moved to larger sites.

As for the cash shortage, they believed the answer was to focus more on public health issues such as diet, smoking and alcohol.

And if you are still not convinced the NHS is going back to the future, to ameliorate the political impact of new funding drying up the government decided that expanding capacity was no longer the big issue - quality was the new rallying cry.

So if you are stumped about how to deal with all the competing demands facing you in 2009, just scurry down to the basement and dig out the files from three decades ago.