THE financial threat that has loomed over Hinchingbrooke Hospital looks to have finally been lifted as millions of pounds have been effectively added to its budget. While the NHS formulated a plan to secure the Huntingdon hospital's long-term future, the Department of Health has had a change of heart that will be a vital boost for local healthcare. The hospital could have been facing a deficit of more than £60million in the year that started this week - almost its entire annual budget. But two 11th-hour changes by the Department of Health mean that it could not only make an operating profit in 2008/09, but also see the way to eliminating its historic debt, currently estimated at up to £40million. And all without earning or saving a single penny. It means for the year just ended the hospital's projected deficit has dropped from £30.5million to £13.4million - a sum that would have generated a £26.8million penalty under old rules. This method of penalty has now been scrapped, saving the hospital millions. Consultant radiologist Catherine Hubbard said the news would boost staff morale at the hospital, which had been slowly strengthening as ways of keeping keys services at the site emerged late last year and in January.