The question that interests me is whether there is a grain of truth hiding amid these insults. I’d say there was. I’d say that under the present system which President Obama is hoping to improve, most middle-class Americans are liable to receive better health treatment than their British counterparts.

If I were a middle-income American living in Seattle or Chicago, I could almost certainly rely on superior care than if I lived in Birmingham or Newcastle.

This would probably not apply if I were poor, though there is a safety net for the sick and uninsured in the United States that is more effective than British critics commonly suppose…

But whatever the failings and excesses of the American system, the statistics suggest that it delivers better outcomes than the NHS when dealing with serious illnesses. I say ‘suggest’ because we should always be wary of comparing figures compiled in different ways in different countries…

If you are suspicious of comparative statistics, consult any American who has encountered the NHS. Often they cannot believe what has happened to them – the squalor, and looming threat of MRSA; the long waiting lists, and especially the official target that patients in ‘accident and emergency’ should be expected to wait for no more than four – four! – hours; the sense exuded by some medical staff that they are doing you a favour by taking down your personal details.