Blame 'causing exodus'. . . Nurses unhappy over ads. . . New healthcare grade. . . Consultants 'breaching contracts'. . . £2m strike bill. . .

A growing tendency to blame the NHS's financial problems on managerial incompetence is leading to an exodus of managers from the service, according to the Institute of Health Services Management.

Its director, Dr Maureen Dixon, warned that the increasing number of health authorities under financial scrutiny was evidence that the NHS was 'grossly underfunded', an argument accepted by all except the government. She blamed ministers for bolstering the 'tabloid image' of managers as less competent than their counterparts in industry.

Nurses have warned that the Department of Health's£200,000 recruitment campaign aimed at readers of teenage magazines could attract the wrong people to the profession. The strip cartoon adverts, which feature nurses such as Paula, who has returned from a holiday in Greece, and Carol, described as a 'regular party and cinemagoer', give a 'misleading' impression of nursing, says the Royal College of Nursing.

NHS chief executive Duncan Nichol has launched the new grade of healthcare assistant, aimed at taking over less skilled nursing tasks. Government employment and youth training schemes are being set up to provide basic training for healthcare assistants.

Consultants in Birmingham are breaching their NHS contracts to work in a private hospital, the Commons public accounts committee has heard. Labour MP Terry Davis claimed that of 87 consultants who held regular sessions at a large private hospital, at least 10 had fulltime NHS contracts.

The weekly bill for police and army assistance to the ambulance service during the current dispute is£2m, according to shadow health secretary Robin Cook. 'Surely the money would be better spent settling rather than prolonging the dispute, ' he said, calling it 'the price the country is paying for the pride of health secretary Kenneth Clarke'.