Hospitals could miss key targets on cancer care as the level of “financial risk” across the health sector increases, a new report has warned.

NHS foundation trusts - a supposed marker of excellence in the NHS - are predicting a fall in their income, with an impact on how they deliver services to patients.

Trust have told the regulator Monitor they expect a tough next three years, with more than a quarter (26%) of 129 foundation trusts saying they were at risk of breaching key standards.

These included targets on cancer, superbugs like MRSA and services for the mentally ill.

The report said: “For those that have declared a risk to their governance rating, the cancer service performance targets present the biggest challenge.

“The 62-day cancer target is the target most at risk of breach for acute and specialist (for example children’s hospitals, women’s hospitals, cancer hospitals) foundation trusts.”

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has scrapped several NHS targets brought in under Labour, including that patients wait no more than 18 weeks for hospital treatment after being referred by their GP.

The four-hour A&E waiting time target has also been relaxed, so trusts now have to hit it 95% of the time instead of 98%.

Despite this easing some of the pressure, the report said some foundation trusts still remained at risk of breaching governance standards.

A total of 23 trusts have already declared a risk to cancer targets, in particular the 62-day target from GP referral to treatment for cancer.