Monitor has recorded a significant reduction in the number of foundation trusts (FTs) breaching cancer targets in the third quarter of 2011/12 - 16, down from 23 in quarter two.
The FT regulator's review of the year also found improved performance against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and referral to treatment (RTT).
But the quarter saw worse performance against accident and emergency targets - 14 compared to six in the last quarter. Monitor said this might be explained by increased demand and work to address RTT backlogs.
More trusts were found to be at risk of breaching C. difficile targets, despite improving their performance significantly since last year.
Some 45 per cent of FTs achieved a green rating (the highest) for governance. This compares to 41 per cent in the last quarter. But more trusts were rated red and amber - 42 per cent, compared to 35 per cent in quarter two. Monitor said the main reason for this was an increased number of inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission, results of which are reflected in the regulator's report.
Monitor's chief operating officer Stephen Hay said that if the trusts concerned did not address the problems highlighted by inspections then action could be taken.
FT finances for the nine months up to the end of 2011 show a surplus of £326m, ahead of plan. Monitor explains this as partly due to the delivery of cost savings despite financial challenges. But some trusts had 'significant' deficits that must be addressed.
The report reviews the performance of the 141 FTs that were authorised as at 30 September 2011. There are currently 143 NHS foundation trusts.