The Department of Health (DH) has predicted a surplus of £1.75bn for 2008/09, and says the NHS is making good progress against key priorities and continues to show strong financial management.
The new finance figures have been published in the first quarterly report of 2008/09, which looks at the NHS financial performance in April–June of this year.
The figures forecast the year-end financial position based on the first three months of the financial year. The surplus – predicted to be around 2% of the overall NHS budget – will stay within the NHS to improve patient care and is in line with the expected financial position.
The DH points to "continued improvement" in reducing the gross deficit, predicted to be £45m at year end, down from £125m at the end of 2007/08 and £1,312m in 2005/06.
The quarterly report also claims the NHS is on track to meet the government's target of treating patients no longer than 18 weeks after their referral by a GP.
The latest published figures show that the NHS is close to the operational standard of 90% of admitted patients and 95% of nonadmitted patients being treated within 18 weeks of referral. The DH is confident the NHS will meet the final target at the end of the year.
Progress has also been made on improving access to primary care, claims the DH. Recent figures show that 37.8% of GP practices have achieved the extended hours target in July, up from 28.1% in June.
"Sustaining this level of improvement should ensure that the NHS delivers the target of 50% of practices achieving extended opening hours by the end of December," said the DH.
Commenting on the quarterly report, David Flory, the DH's Director General of NHS Finance, Performance and Operations, said: "This is an excellent start to the year for the NHS. A strong financial position backed by good progress on delivery will continue to ensure high quality services for patients.
"Following on from its 60th anniversary, the NHS must now look forward to concentrating on sustaining progress and focusing on responding to what people need at a local level.
"This strong start to 2008/09 means that the NHS has the flexibility to invest in making its local visions, published as part of the NHS Next Stage Review, for delivering the highest quality care for its communities a reality."
Has 2008 been a good year for the NHS? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Well, I came back to working in it after two years working away :-)" – Nigel Kenward, Lincs