Foundation trusts generated a £130m net surplus for the last financial year although three were shown to be in deficit, according to figures released yesterday.

Independent regulator Monitor said the figure was£104m better than expected, and added that foundation trusts had also achieved efficiency improvements of 3 per cent.

However, University College London Hospitals, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases foundation trusts all recorded a deficit, with UCLH's the largest at£6.6m.

Monitor chair Bill Moyes said: 'Greater efficiency resulted in significantly improved operating margins and a healthy surplus across the sector.

'It is very significant that 56 out of 59 trusts ended the year in surplus. An operating surplus and healthy cash balance is as important for a foundation trust as it is for any successful enterprise.'

The Department of Health was also due to release its financial results yesterday, showing that the NHS underspent by£500m during the last financial year.