It will begin as a year of high expectations. In popular imagining, the countdown begins to the end of the internal market and the mystic date on which the NHS deficit is expunged. People who are looking for a New Age, New NHS are in for some surprises. Not least if their initials are FD.
The major event of the year is the total eclipse of fundholding on 1 April. Many people have forecast that it will bring the Third World War and the end of the world. This is based on a misreading of a famous prophecy written before the general election by Rhidian Morristradamus.
January There may be concerns about the effect of cold weather on hospital services and other such obvious things as generally appear in almanacks. There could be a row about waiting lists. Frank Dobson will set out a 'third way' for health: 'What matters is what works.'
February will bring talk of a 5 per cent pay rise for NHS staff. The British Medical Association will prophesy doom; Frank Dobson will say the extra money is to be found by 'abolishing the internal market and cutting red tape'. The Our Healthier Nation white paper shall decree that targets for reducing inequalities must be set locally.
March The BMA will warn that GPs will boycott primary care group boards if they are not paid more. In the Budget, Gordon Brown may find£500m for health. The money will come from 'abolishing the internal market and cutting red tape' and is to be counted over the lifetime of the parliament. 'What matters', Frank Dobson will say, 'is what works.' Consultant merit awards will be delayed when the 'nominate yourself' approach leads to a deluge of bids.
Birthdays: Frank Dobson 15 March 1940; Baroness Hayman 26 March 1949
April On 1 April, more than 500 GPs will resign from PCGs, citing unacceptable pressures to curb spending and the lack of recognition for their involvement. The BMA shall prophesy doom. Annual accounts from the Institute of Health Services Management could show a massive trading loss. IHSM director Karen Caines will declare it a one-off problem which is now in the past.
May At the IHSM conference, Frank Dobson will say he expects every manager to be at their desk come new year's eve. That's funny, John Denham may respond, because he expects to be at Frank Dobson's. The health secretary could claim success in hitting the government's waiting list pledge despite claims that hospitals are writing to deter patients by warning them their surgeon comes bottom of new clinical indicator tables. 'What matters is what works,' he says.
Birthday: John Hutton 6 May 1955
June The BSE inquiry will conclude that former Conservative health ministers were not to blame by reason of insanity. At the NHS Confederation conference, Frank Dobson will declare his wish to stay at the Department of Health for the rest of this parliament.
July In a Cabinet reshuffle, Frank Dobson will swap jobs with Mo Mowlam. The Northern Ireland peace process could falter as he brings his legendary humour to bear: 'Do the Riverdance people jig around like that because their arms have been decommissioned?' he will ask a prominent Republican.
Birthday: John Denham, 15 July 1953
August The sun is eclipsed across swathes of southern England; the BMA prophesies doom. At her first meeting with the BMA, Mo Mowlam gooses Ian Bogle. In a subsequent statement, Dr Bogle says doctors' morale has never been higher.
September Mo Mowlam will declare a break with usual government practice: Richmond House will close for a month.
Birthdays: Tessa Jowell 17 September 1947
October Priorities guidance for the NHS will expand to encompass social services, housing, education, transport and police authorities. Hospitals will be mentioned on page 23 (paragraph 12a vii). Doctors' evidence to the pay review body shall call for parity with top QCs. Mo Mowlam will reply there will be no pay rise until Provisional BMA begins to decommission its arms.
Birthdays: Ann Widdecombe, 4 October 1947
November Mo Mowlam will announce the results of an evaluation of the effect on the NHS of closing Richmond House during September: 'It worked - and that's what matters.' The policy is to be adopted permanently from 1 January 2000.
December At midnight on 31 December, no one and nothing works.