What's the secret of good comedy?
Yes, that's right: timing.
Well I imagine it raised a smile in the Hart household at least.
But the Counsel General was scowling purposefully, rather than smiling this morning. The English Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw's comments on waiting times in Wales had been "unhelpful" and had led to "unnecessary tension between two administrations within the UK".
The polite version was this:
"We endeavour, of course, not to comment on policy initiatives that are taken in England. That's a matter for the authorities in England. And, of course, we'd want to ensure that, as far as Wales is concerned, that what happens in Wales is the responsibility of the elected Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly. We would not comment on what happened in England ... "
Or in other words, naff off Bradshaw.
But forget for a moment who made the comments or why: what about the substance of what he had to say? Don't tell me you've forgotten that damning soundbite that "in Wales, you have to wait much longer for your operation, you have to wait much longer in A+E"?
When the dust has long since settled, it'll settle on the damage done by that very specific accusation.
It's hardly surprising that the number crunchers this end have been busy.
They've got their calculators out, if only to point out that figures on waiting times are worked out differently in England and in Wales. (Ah, another one of the joys of devolution?)
In England waiting times are calculated based only on patients who've been referred to hospital by their GP. In Wales the figures are based on patients who've come via their GP, an occupational health practitioner or if you just turn up in hospital. In other words the net is cast wider. If it wasn't then the figures, we're told, would be 'around a third less' than they are.
What are the latest figures in Wales?
Average waiting time for an operation: 127 days
93% of patients waiting less than 22 weeks for an outpatient appointment
91% waiting less than 22 weeks for the actual operation
A target that no patient should wait more than 22 weeks to see a consultant, followed by a maximum wait of 22 weeks for an operation.
And on A+E?
'Roughly' 9 out of 10 people waited for less than 4 hours in A+E
In England the figure is somewhere around 9.5 people ... though once again, the figures are calculated differently.
Does the Department of Health accept these figures? How significant is the difference in the way they're calculated? Is it fair to say they'd be 'around a third less' if the same method of calculation were used/?
In other words, do they constitute 'much longer' waiting times?
Calls are in.