An international service company has taken over the contract for one of the largest NHS shared services organisations in the country.

Serco Group has started operating the Anglia Support Partnership, which provides IT services, operational support and facilities management to NHS trusts in the East of England and 50 other public and private organisations.

A company press release describes the acquisition as Serco’s: “First shared services proposition in the emerging market for middle and back office support to the UK health sector.”

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, together with a five partnering NHS organisations, has operated ASP to date. The partnership employs around 620 members of staff who will transfer to the new provider.

A Serco spokesman said the trusts were looking for greater efficiency in the delivery of shared services and wanted a commercial partner to help them achieve that.

The new, four-year contract is worth £30m in its first year with an initial total contract value of £120m.The company will also pay the partner trusts about £9m in 2012 for the ASP’s assets.

The spokesman said the company intended to grow and provide services to other public sector organisations – increasing its revenue and providing benefits of scale for service delivery.

In terms of IT, the partnership currently provides desktop support, GP IT support, IT training, information security, IT help desk and network support. It has also put together a special offer for emerging clinical commissioning groups.

The new framework agreement permits the call-off of additional services including; commissioning advice and related support services; efficiency advice and consultancy services; and patient administration.

It enables all NHS organisations in the new Midlands and East Strategic Health Authority to access services equivalent to around 25% of their total budget.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough chief executive Dr Attila Vegh said Serco offered the investment that wasneeded to keep ASP’s services at the “cutting edge.”

“Capitalising on the strengths and track record of ASP, we are looking forward to seeing Serco modernise systems and invest in infrastructure, while seizing other opportunities for growing the business,” he said.

Serco chief executive Christopher Hyman said the contract was a significant milestone and success for the company’snew Global Services division.

The framework enabled Serco to “address much of the sizeable NHS ‘shared services’ market, offering member organisations both improvements in service quality and substantial cost savings.”

The deal follows a trend towards major IT outsourcing deals by NHS trusts including a recently announced £37m seven-year contract for 2e2 to provide ICT services to Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Also in the pipeline is a £600m outsourcing tender – including IT support – issued by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

The outsourcing of a shared services is relatively unique, though three North London trusts awarded a five-year contract for 2e2 to run its previously shared service in April 2010.

Critics of the Health and Social Care Bill fear that commissioning support services, currently being set up to provide IT to CCGs, will ultimately be contracted out to the private sector in a similar manner.