The NHS saved around £2.5bn in the first half of this financial year, or 42 per cent of its target for the year, the Department of Health reported today.

The publication of the figure in the service’s second quarterly report for 2011-12 is the first time the NHS has put a numerical value on its progress against its £20bn quality, innovation, productivity and prevention savings drive.

Primary care trusts will need to deliver a further £3.4bn QIPP savings by April to hit their targets for the financial year.

“Whilst the remaining 58 per cent of the forecast savings will be delivered in the second half of the year, this is still considered good progress to date,” the report stated.

However, the report also demonstrated the toll this savings programme was taking on providers, with an increased number of NHS trusts showing signs of financial strain.

At the end of September, the department rated the financial performance of 19 NHS trusts as “challenged”, “underperforming”, or “under review”, compared with 13 at the end of June. Over that period the overall 2011-12 surplus forecast by the trust sector dropped from an already small £61m to £36m – a margin of just 0.1 per cent of its total income.

At the end of September seven trusts were forecasting deficits totalling £186m, compared with six trusts forecasting £170m deficits at the end of the previous quarter. Whipps Cross University Hospitals Trust was the only organisation to be forecasting a 2011-12 deficit for the first time at the end of the second quarter.

Two of the trusts forecasting deficit at the end of June increased their forecast losses. Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust was forecasting a £50m deficit at the end of September, £10m worse than its previous forecast, and Imperial College Healthcare Trust raised its forecast deficit by £5m, to £35m.

The report noted that the “magnitude of the balance” between the trust sector’s operating surplus and its operating deficit is “starting to change”.

“Although the magnitude of the operating deficit is due a small number of organisations, we will be looking at a range of interventions for those organisations continuing to forecast deficit positions as it will be important to ensure that organisations are in a suitable position in order to meet the requirements for foundation trust status,” it added.

An HSJ survey of trust’s finance reports – covering periods ranging from the end of September to the end of November – last week found eight organisations forecasting combined deficits of £201m.

On the QIPP programme, the DH did not provide figures for the savings achieved by individual commissioners, only the four strategic health authority “clusters”.

The North of England cluster showed the strongest performance, delivering 47 per cent of its £1.6bn full-year saving target in the first six months.

The South of England showed the weakest performance, delivering just 38 per cent of a £1.4bn target over the same period.

In most cases, the areas where commissioners expected to make QIPP savings remained consistent with their Q1 forecasts. However, the total forecast savings from acute services dropped by £200m, to £2.9bn, while total forecast savings from non-specified “other” areas increased by around £250m to £855m.