The Department of Health has said it will change the financial reporting rules to ensure trusts with private finance initiative debts do not breach their statutory duty to break even.

A DH spokesperson told HSJ it is working with the Audit Commission to “ensure that the revenue consequences of international financial reporting standards, for PFI-type schemes, will not be reflected within the financial performance of NHS trusts”.

Under rules introduced in April, NHS bodies must report their PFI assets and debts on their balance sheets. Assets declared on trust balance must be depreciated at around 2.5 per cent a year, to reflect their gradual loss of value.

Up to £10bn worth of private finance assets are due to be newly declared in 31 March 2010 balance sheets, which could require trusts to make technical deductions from their income of around £273m for one year’s depreciation.

As the changes are technical, trusts will not need to find more cash to pay them. However, the change is likely to reduce the size of this year’s surplus.

This has particularly worried trusts with historic deficits.

Trusts have criticised the DH for being slow to say how it will deal with such cases. One finance director said that, although the depreciation charges were only “technical”, they could mean cuts in patient services.