DK: Patsy, thank you for granting this interview.
Patsy: It's my pleasure. Really, I couldn't be happier.
DK: Great. Right, now, you have today announced a surplus in the NHS budget—one might almost call it a profit—of about £500 million.
Patsy: Yes, that's right.
DK: Now, many bloggers have been saying for some time that, once you had made the budget a resigning matter...
Patsy: No, now, I never actually said that...
DK: ... but you strongly implied it, did you not? Please, Ms Hewitt, there's no need to be defensive: you have, after all, balanced the books. Come now, we're all friends here.
Now, what, of course, we want to know is, how did you do it?
Patsy: Well, with a lot of careful management and also, of course, the support of the NHS staff without whom...
DK: Including the 17,000 who have been sacked over the last year?
Patsy: Well, I am sure that they appreciate the enormity of what we needed to achieve.
DK: Why were they sacked?
Patsy: Well, obviously, they were surplus to requirements.
DK: So, why were they employed in the first place?
DK: Moving on. Now, is it true that waiting list times are not really what you promised? And that you've cut back heavily on... well... everything: including operations and other treatment?
DK: My friend, Wat Tyler, says this—and do, please, excuse his tongue-in-cheek style.Thanks to the Commissar's visionary leadership, the country's coffers will be getting a massive boost, opening the path to yet more glorious victories!
Where now are the cowards and defeatists who said it couldn't be done?
People like the hospital consultants who have the sheer audacity to say the NHS is on its knees and they've lost confidence in the government!
People like the turncoat traitors inside the Department of Health who have sent an email revealing that "52 per cent of hospital inpatients are waiting longer than 18 weeks", and that some are waiting more than a year. Even though the Commissar has made it quite clear that nobody must wait more than 18 weeks.
Such disloyalty! Such ingratitude!
And obviously I agree that they are absolute ingrates...
Patsy: It's just a few dissenters, jealous of my personal triumph.
DK: Right. Um, is it true though?
Patsy: Well, we haven't been able to move things along as fast as we'd like, obviously.
DK: Because you've been so busy saving money?
Patsy: Yes, of course.
DK: So, basically, the way that the NHS has saved the money is by not actually doing the job that it is supposed to do? Basically, it's a bit like saying that if you had sacked everybody and not done any of the treatment, you would have made savings of about £80 billion.
Patsy: It's a bit more complicated than that.
DK: Last year, the NHS made a £1.3 billion loss. Is that correct?
DK: So, would it be fair to say that you haven't actually made a £500 million surplus over two years. You have, in fact, made a £800 million loss?
Patsy: Ah, no, no the books are completely balanced.
DK: OK, how?
Patsy: Well, we held back nearly a third of the planned increase in spending, which was about £1.8 billion.
DK: So, your total budget increase was around £6 billion?
Patsy: Yes. Then we cut training and so forth...
DK: Like junior doctor training?
Patsy: ... to build up a £450 million "warchest".
DK: So, you held back £1.8 billion and saved £450 million, which makes a grand total of £2.25 billion. Last year's deficit was £1.3 billion—which you've paid off...?
Patsy: Yes, yes, that's right.
DK: Which leaves us with a remaining surplus of £950 million, right? Of which £500 million is now left? And the remaining £450 million? Where is that?
Patsy: Well, obviously it has been allocated.
DK: So, let me get this straight. Last year, you overspent your budget by about £1.3 billion; this year you have underspent your budget by £500 million. So this means that—even though you sacked 17,000 staff, increased waiting lists and cancelled operations—you actually spent, given the increase, about £4 billion extra this year than last, overall.
Patsy: Really, if you want to betray the NHS staff who have worked so hard by saying so...
DK: Yes, but it's true, isn't it? Now, you have defrayed costs by, essentially, delaying training and treatment until the next fiscal year, haven't you?
Patsy: Running our services at a manageable level, yes.
DK: So, the deficit next year is likely to be even higher, isn't it, than this year? Because you have simply delayed these treatments until next year; and that means that you have only deferred the loss; not eliminated it.
Patsy: Ah, yes, but by that time, many of those waiting to be treated will either have died or gone private—which is becoming ever more affordable, you know—and so will, one way or another, not be needing treatment on the NHS.
DK: Right, I see. So, what are your chances of retaining your job under Brown? Minimal?
Patsy: Oh, absolutely certain. Gordon and I get on famously and we both agree that it's been my best year ever.
DK: Patricia Hewitt, thank you for giving us an insight into your reality.
A wonderful day, I'm sure you'll agree. Hail the