The financial performance of PCTs in England is good overall and improving, the Audit Commission reported yesterday (1 October 2009).
The Auditors' new Use of Resources (UoR) assessment for PCTs shows that only a handful of trusts have failed to meet minimum standards this year.
The Audit Commission says PCTs have responded well to a new and more demanding assessment, although none was given an "excellent" rating this year.
Buckinghamshire PCT was the only primary care trust that failed to achieve financial balance in 2008/09, with an overspend of roughly £7.5m.
Andy McKeon, the Audit Commission's Managing Director of Health, said: "These are financially uncertain times and, with an expected budgetary squeeze on the horizon, it's reassuring that most NHS trusts and PCTs have got better at managing their money.
"But the detail also shows that there is room for improvement, particularly if future pressures to maintain quality of service and improve productivity are to be met."
The report says that while NHS trusts are good and getting better at the way they manage their budgets, many are not as good at financial planning for the future or at getting the most out of their buildings and equipment. It also says PCTs could do more to improve the productivity of the community services they provide.
In 2008/09, auditors assessed England's 152 PCTs under a new and more demanding UoR regime, which is an element of the Care Quality Commission's annual health check.
The assessment considers how PCTs manage their finances, workforce and assets to deliver value for money, and how they govern themselves. Eight PCTs failed to meet minimum standards in one or more parts of this assessment.
The NHS in England reported a surplus of £1.74bn last year, up from £1.67bn in 2007/8 – about 2% of total NHS spending.