One of the biggest shared services organisations in the NHS has effectively been taken over by Serco in a four-year £120m deal.

Anglia Support Partnership is currently hosted by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust. It provides services such as IT, estates and facilities, finance and procurement to around 50 organisations, mainly in the NHS.

Under the agreement, Serco will run its operations for four years, with around 600 staff transferring under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)Regulations 2006 and with protected NHS pension rights. New employees will not get NHS pensions.

It has also paid £9m to the six NHS organisations which own ASP - part of which covers the cost of its existing assets - and said it would be making substantial investments in the business.

ASP says the agreement secures its future while allowing for growth into areas such as commissioning advice, cost reduction and efficiency, consultancy and patient administration.

Its turnover was £34m in 2010 but tender documents suggested the maximum contract value could be £400m. Other NHS organisations in the Midlands and East strategic health authority cluster can also contract for services.

The deal will be Serco’s first venture into shared service provision in the NHS. The company is likely to use it as a springboard to attract more clients.

This could see Serco becoming both a provider of commissioning support and a major provider in the East of England where it has won a contract to provide community services across Suffolk and also prison healthcare services.

Unison regional organiser Phil Gooden said: “It would seem bizarre if a private sector company is involved in the decision making to award a contract to themselves, another private provider or the NHS.”

Managers in Partnership regional officer George Shepherd asked: “Where are the checks and the transparency?”

A Serco spokesman said its priority was “business as usual” and making “20 per cent cost savings over four to eight years” for partnership members.

Attila Vegh, chief executive of CPFT, said: “We consider Serco to be the ideal strategic partner and one that can offer the investment that’s vital to keep ASP’s services at the cutting edge.”

The search for a “partner” to run ASP was launched around a year ago with the involvement of the East of England strategic health authority’s strategic projects team. There were 70 initial expressions of interest and Serco was selected as the preferred partner before Christmas.