The NHS is launching a review of whether health and social care data is secure from hackers, amid increasing concerns about cyber security.

The first chair of the Health and Social Care Information Centre, Kingsley Manning, outlined the work in an interview with HSJ.

Mr Manning also set out his plans for the new organisation.

Mr Manning said: “We think for us as a country, for the healthcare system including social care, the importance of cyber security is going to rise and we are going to undertake a major review.

“The estimated number of attempts to hack from overseas governments into British government agencies is staggering. We can make the health and social care system aware of this.”

Information Centre non-executive director Sir Ian Andrews, who also chairs the Serious Organised Crime Agency, will lead the review, Mr Manning revealed.

A paper discussed at the organisation’s executive meeting earlier this month said: “The current context of allegations about the US NSA [National Security Agency] having comprehensive access to internet provider material has raised the stakes in terms of building public confidence about how their health data is used safely.”

Data security is a high priority for the new chairman, who began his part-time role on 3 June.

The former McKinsey & Company senior adviser said the body was “in the final stage of drafting” a new code of practice for confidential information which will begin incorporating some of the recommendations from Dame Fiona Caldicott’s review of information governance, published in April.

The code will be “a vehicle for ensuring the behavioural changes required to achieve the correct balance between sharing and protecting confidentiality”, the board paper said.  

Mr Manning also wants the Information Centre to have far more influence outside the NHS than in the past.

He said that while the organisation wanted out external individuals and organisations to analyse its data, he also wanted it to present information in a way that the public could understand. He also wanted to “speak truth to power”, he said.

Mr Manning said: “We want to see an improvement in the quality of debate which is based on evidence rather than assertion.

“The recent A&E debate has been largely based on assertion rather than evidence. Our job is to try and improve the quality of the debate.”

Earlier this month the centre issued data showing there had been no significant increase in demand for A&E out of hours.

This appeared to challenge the government’s assertion that poor out of hours primary care was to blame.

Mr Manning said the Information Centre would also be forceful in taking to task those, including media and politicians, who misused or misrepresented the centre’s data.   

Addressing recent accusations the centre was “selling” personal and sensitive data, he said he wanted to send an “absolutely clear” message that the centre was only covering its costs. Mr Manning said patients’ data was not being put at risk as a result of such arrangements.

Earlier this year forms emerged which indicated firms could pay the Information Centre for access to data.

An HSCIC spokeswoman admitted to HSJ they had “not been well presented”.

“Urgent action has been taken to improve the presentation but more work needs to be done,” she said.