The Department of Health has commissioned management consultants KPMG to report on a vision for a digital strategy for the NHS.

The review, being run separately to the £12.7 billion NHS IT programme, includes a review of the future roles of the health helpline NHS Direct and the DH’s flagship website NHS Choices.

The relationship between the two agencies has already been the subject of internal DH wrangling with NHS Direct’s online activities last year transferred to NHS Choices.

E-Health Insider understands that KPMG have brought in information specialist Dr Foster, the firm until late 2008 ran NHS Choices on behalf of the DH, to help carry out the review.

After losing out to Capita on an £80m procurement to run NHS Choices last autumn, Dr Foster last November set up a rival portal.

A Department of Health spokesperson told EHI: “It is only right that in a digital age we are constantly looking at ways to enhance the work of the Department. That is why KPMG have been commissioned to do this and will be reporting to the Department of Health shortly.”

Nick Chapman, NHS Direct chief executive, told NHS Direct’s June board meeting that NHS Direct had been “fully engaged” with KPMG and Dr Foster to provide input to the development of a vision for a digital strategy for the NHS and said staff had attended workshops and meetings to input to the review.

Chapman said the KPMG report would look at the roles of NHS Direct and NHS Choices and the organisational forms that should be adopted.

Last year the DH over-hauled the way information is provided to the public by NHS Choices and NHS Direct by migrating NHS Direct’s online health content to NHS Choices. The NHS Direct website retained its self-help guide and enquiry service as well as recent developments including self-assessment tools and a web chat service.

The involvement of information specialists Dr Foster in the review may raise some eyebrows as it was one of the losing bidders when the DH won an £80m procurement process for NHS Choices, which was eventually won by Capita.

In a parliamentary report written answer last month health minister Phil Hope revealed that KPMG has been more than £30m by the DH over the last five years for services including finance, tax and audit as well as management consultancy including almost £5m by the end of June this year.

Mark Britnell, former NHS director general for commissioning and system management, announced in June that he was leaving the NHS to work for KPMG and former head of Connecting for Health Richard Granger also left the NHS to work for KPMG in Australia in 2008.