A Govertment advertisement that said average full-time trained nurses earn more than £20,000 a year has been criticised for misleading viewers.

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) has upheld 155 complaints, mostly from nurses, about the campaign. Some of the complainants, who suggested the stated salary must include London weighting or overtime payments, feared the advert might harm the profession's public image in negotiations on basic pay.

The Department of Health, which supplied the figures used to calculate the sum, said it had collected details of gross earnings for August each year from a representative sample of 70,000 full-time NHS nurses. While management and other senior grades were left out of the calculations, the figures used incorporated allowances on top of basic salaries.

But in its monthly television advertising complaints report, published today, the commission ruled: "The ITC accepted that the statement about earnings was factually correct, but remained concerned that viewers would be confused as to its meaning. The ITC believed that it would be interpreted as implying that 'an average nurse' would earn a basic salary of around £20,000.

"From the Department of Health's explanation it was clear that what it actually meant was that the total earnings of all nurses on grades D to G averaged to around £20,000, including leads and allowances."

The ITC also upheld complaints that a Volvo advert, featuring a young boy drawing blurred objects, breached guidelines by using speed to promote a product.