Prime Minister Theresa May has denied suggestions that the government ignored warnings that NHS systems were vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
“It was clear warnings were given to hospital trusts, but this is not something that focused on attacking the NHS here in the UK,” she said.
In July last year, the Care Quality Commission and National Data Guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, wrote to Mr Hunt warning that an “external cyber threat is becoming a bigger consideration” within the NHS.
It said a data security review of 60 hospitals, GP surgeries and dental practices found there was a “lack of understanding of security issues” and data breaches were caused by time-pressed staff often working “with ineffective processes and technology”.
Meanwhile, Security Minister Ben Wallace has insisted NHS trusts have enough money to protect themselves against cyber-attacks.
The “real key” was whether trusts had regularly backed up data and whether they were installing security patches, he said.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told Radio 4’s Today programme many hospitals use sophisticated technology such as MRI and CT scanners which are “bound to be using old software” because they have a ten-year life expectancy, so are often linked to older operating systems.
He said he was “disappointed” at the suggestion by some that the cyber-attack problem was down to “NHS manager incompetence”.
The government is insisting that the NHS had been repeatedly warned about the cyber-threat to its IT systems, with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stating £50m was being spent on NHS systems to improve their security.
But Labour criticised the Conservatives, saying they had cut funding to the NHS’s IT budget and a contract to protect computer systems was not renewed after 2015.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn described the cyber-attack on the NHS as “highway robbery” and said more investment was needed to protect “all of us from the criminals doing us down”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also pointed to a report from the National Audit Office six months ago.
It highlighted how, in February 2016, the Department of Health had “transferred £950m of its £4.6bn budget for capital projects, such as building works and IT, to revenue budgets to fund the day-to-day activities of NHS bodies”.
The WannaCry ransomware exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows first identified by US intelligence.