“We should be clear that the responsibility for today’s apparently extensive attack on NHS IT systems, and for any harm that occurs to patients as a result, lies with the criminals who have perpetrated it. From reports so far, the attack appears to have been highly co-ordinated and aggressive, and a police investigation will no doubt be required.

“However, that something of this sort could happen will surprise few people. It has long been known that the NHS struggles with IT in multiple respects, and that this includes serious security problems. Though today’s may be the largest attack of this sort, it is not the first – yet the lessons from earlier incidents have not been learnt.

“The power of IT in transforming services for patients is undoubted, yet the NHS has struggled to harness it: centralised approaches have failed badly, while smaller scale local projects can easily give rise to huge variations in both quality and security.

“We are seeing today that IT security is critical to patient safety. Addressing it effectively and quickly is essential, and requires appropriate investment. In this election period, we must look to our political parties for leadership – now is not the time to be squeamish about the cost of keeping our NHS secure.”