The new chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has set out his priorities in the role in an interview with HSJ.

David Haslam also commented on remarks made by his predecessor Sir Michael Rawlins, who suggested patients should take legal action if the NHS would not fund recommended drugs and treatments for them.

Professor Haslam played down the prospect. He told HSJ he “fully supported” patients’ right to bring a challenge, but that it had not been necessary so far.

He said: “[The previous NICE chair] Sir Michael Rawlins said if patients have their legal right blocked to drugs that receive NICE approval they should resort to judicial review.

“I would support that but that has never yet proved necessary, [although] perhaps that is because the threat is there.”

Professor Haslam’s comments come a month after Department of Health guidelines were introduced requiring all trusts and clinical commissioning groups to reveal which NICE-approved drugs are funded and included in their formularies.

Sir Michael wrote in HSJ in July that some trusts were “quite clearly breaking the law” on funding drugs. When the transparency plans were announced last year, Sir Michael welcomed them.

Sir Michael said trusts would not “dare leave any NICE approved drugs out” because “it will be too glaringly obvious that they are breaking the law”.

Professor Haslam, a former GP and past chair of the Royal College of GPs, told HSJ his main priorities for his four-year term would be to develop its work on those with more than one condition or illness, the organization taking on responsibility for social care, and responding to the funding squeeze on NHS and care.

He said: “A lot of the work of NICE in the past has been focused around single conditions and yet most patients now have multiple conditions.”

NICE took on responsibility for social care under the 2012 Health Act. Professor Haslam said his work at the Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Commission regulators, at which he was a senior clinical adviser, meant he “very much appreciated the cultural differences between health and social care, even down to the use of language”.

Professor Haslam has also led work on information in health in the past, including overseeing the NHS Future Forum’s work on the theme.

He urged NHS England to ensure its plans for developing use of data were clinically led.

He told HSJ: “Too often the collection of data, for example HES data [hospital episode statistics] has been primarily for administrative reasons with the clinicians not being terribly involved. The quality and accuracy of the data has been less than perfect.

“The agenda needs to be led by clinicians. The collection of data must be primarily for clinical purposes and the administrative purposes a subset of that.”

He welcomed Robert Francis QC’s Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust inquiry recommendation that NICE should advise on services’ staffing levels, but said its work on the “difficult” issue required further thought.