It's that time of the year. The words 'draft' are being lifted from Annual Audit Letters that summarise so succinctly the state of your financial health.

Mr Keown and his crew are sending out emails with embedded hyperlinks that lay bare the scores on your ALE assessment doors, and as importantly on the doors next door. Healthcare Commission staff are on the street giving feedback to the Trusts selected at random or by risk for an inspection against elements of their Core Standards Declarations. (Get it wrong and it's a 2 point penalty that can tip you over the edge, leave aside the implications for your self-assurance process and the post-mortem at the Board).

Information departments are running the numbers and having a punt, the ALE score predictable but the quality score a bit trickier to pin down. CEOs whisper in corners about data not submitted, appeals unreasonably withheld (an acknowledgement would be a good start), and how the ante is upping for those at the bottom of the pile.

If you're wondering what I'm going on about, the 16th of October clearly means more to me that it does to you. For on that glorious 16th the Healthcare Commission publishes its Annual Health Check, slapping weak/weak to excellent/excellent labels on hospitals and PCTs across the land. By Monday it's next week's fish and chip paper but for Thursday and Friday it's the talk of the town. Or it used to be, until they became big flashing lights on your NHS Choices entry, pushing the browsing punter in one direction or another.

So first look at yours, then look next door, then look at the SHA, and then look out for your mates. And whichever way you look at it and whichever way it goes, raise a glass or two. For what's done is done, and with only a handful of exception the only way to excellent/excellent is up!

Blogs homepage