Challenge to reforms. . . Third Executive board member quits. . .Nurse regrading 'failure'. . . Private foothold urged. . . 'Slap-up meal' row. . .

A group of NHS consultants has launched a legal challenge to halt implementation of the reforms. Led by Professor Harry Keen of Guy's Hospital, they are seeking to have work on the reforms ahead of legislation declared unlawful. Professor Keen has asked all 17,000 consultants in the NHS to donate£10 towards legal costs. Lord Irvine QC has advised them there may be a case for judicial review.

Senior civil servant Graham Hart is to leave the Department of Health to become secretary at the Scottish Home and Health Department. He will succeed William Reid, who has been appointed health service commissioner. Mr Hart, currently deputy chief executive on the NHS Management Executive, is the third board member to announce their departure in the past two months.

The nurses' clinical regrading exercise has failed, according to the Institute of Manpower Studies, which says regrading has not persuaded nurses to stay in or rejoin the NHS. An IMS survey of 3,000 Royal College of Nursing members found the exercise was 'flawed in application and . . . flawed in outcome'.

Private hospitals should establish a foothold in the market for NHS patients, said Independent Hospitals Association chief executive Tony Byrne. 'We will see a change in the pattern of patients entering independent hospitals, ' he predicted. 'We will have a new insurer - not BUPA, not PPP but the NHS.'

Trade union COHSE has accused South Cumbria HA of laying on a£7,500 'slap-up meal' for selected guests at the opening by Lord Whitelaw of its development at Furness Hospital. It said the menu included fresh oysters and smoked salmon. District general manager Richard Priestley said the buffet cost hundreds of pounds, not thousands, and the oysters were tinned, not fresh.