It's that time of year again when we all have our excuses ready to explain away the annual healthcheck. The Healthcare Commission team are practising their best po faces by seeing who can best disguise any sign of pleasure while having a butt plug pushed to the max.

To: Don Wise, chief executive

From: Paul Servant, assistant chief executive

Re: Excellent good fair weak

Dear Don

It's that time of year again when we all have our excuses ready to explain away the annual healthcheck. The Healthcare Commission team are practising their best po faces by seeing who can best disguise any sign of pleasure while having a butt plug pushed to the max.

But we mustn't be hard on the commission. They do a very sophisticated job, rightly unloved and unthanked by both the NHS and patients who prefer to check on Dr Foster's site for more relevant and timely data.

This is because while it says: 'We have tried to make [the checks] clear and simple for patients and the public,' it also says: 'Targets set out government expectations of the NHS, which are to be achieved by specific dates. Indicators are the measures the commission uses to assess performance against the targets. And constructions are the detailed information we publish about the indicators, which show the data and the method we will use to calculate the indicator score.'

The commission does, however, recognise that you might find all this simplicity confusing, which is why there is a simple and unpatronising Jargon Buster for patients on the website. Patients will be pleased to find a definition of a patient: 'A person who receives care and treatment from a healthcare organisation.' Now we know!

Anyway, back to those excuses applicable to any negative rating:

  • It was all the previous chief executive's fault (all sins excused).

  • It's the GPs' fault for flooding A&E with patients while they're home counting their money.

  • We missed the target by 0.0034 per cent and so passed it really.

  • We sent the wrong data in - much better than sending the right bad data in.

  • Dr Foster says we're much better than that.

  • These figures relate to a period a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and we're better now.

  • We told you A&E and maternity were crap and should have been closed. And so now they will be.