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Editor's blog Tuesday 2nd February 2010: Two unsurprises

A couple of unsurprises: The Lancet has at last formally retracted the Wakefield MMR paper.

Which is good news. Having edited a journal for eight years (albeit one which was about healthcare management), I'm keenly aware that you have to take what authors tell you on trust. It's often less well remembered that Wakefield's research was published with an accompanying editorial which made clear that great caution should be taken with such surprising and unusual experimental results.

The disgraceful delays before last week's GMC judgment on Wakefield's acting "dishonestly and irresponsibly"are a separate but significant issue. The worryingly low rate of take-up of the vaccine, even now, in cities such as London remains to mark a bitter legacy to one man's unscientific and unethical conduct - and to the media's irresponsible stupidity in the coverage of complex issues.

The second unsurprise comes from Public Finance magazine, which cites an expert from a 'Big Four' (ooh, how camp that phrase is) management consultancy suggesting that an upswing in public sector fraud and data manipulation is under way. By 50%, in the quoted organisation's case.

This should not be a surprise at all. What is should be, though, is found out pretty easily. Random audits of short periods should be cheap and would be effective. The first few offenders should be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct, with maximum publicity, and then prosecuted for fraud.

It's not difficult. It just requires the system to know its corporate arse from its governance elbow.

What was that you said? Carry on frauding? You cynics!