NHS North West is the first strategic health authority to confirm that it will not top-slice money from primary care trusts this financial year.

The Department of Health was unable to confirm how many PCTs would be top-slicing and by how much until SHA financial plans are submitted.

However, a letter sent by NHS North West finance director Mark Ogden to PCT chief executives on 30 April informed them that they would not be subject to the top-slice for 2007-08.

The letter says that 'the return. of the central budget contingency, combined with the good financial performance in the vast majority. of our organisations, means the SHA will post an overall surplus in 2006-07'.

It continues: 'The financial plans clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of organisations are planning for surplus, and this has become the norm across the North West. In light of this, the SHA now considers that a PCT top-slice will not be required for 2007-08.

'This is a fitting outcome to the financial track record of organisations across the North West, and we will be the only SHA area going into 2007-08 without a top-slice.'

NHS North West will, however, still require PCTs to plan for a 0.5 per cent contingency fund in line with the DoH's national expectation.

Chief executive Mike Farrar told HSJ that the SHA had built up a 'really strong financial platform'.

He added that PCTs could choose to bank the money which would have been top-sliced rather than keep it on their books and choosing how to spend it this year.

A DoH spokesman said: 'Of those that do top-slice this year, the percentages are going to be pretty small and PCTs should find themselves a lot better off than last year.'