It would be enough to send even the most steel willed public health director reaching for the Marlboros. East Lancashire primary care trust last week ‘fessed up to having double-counted its smoking cessation figures for much of the past year.

Having thought they were on track to meet their target with 1,771 clean sets of lungs as of November, after a sum check managers were forced to put the figure for January at only 1,282.

“Unfortunately, errors occurred in the reporting, so we were misled and told we were doing much better than we were,” a recent board meeting heard, according to the Lancashire Telegraph.

End Game hopes similar slip-ups are avoided in the PCT’s more long term Save a Million Years of Life programme. There would be some serious catching up to do.