The Department of Health is considering making it easier for patients to opt out of the electronic care record service, officials told a Commons committee this week.

Until now the development of the summary care record service has been built around the concept of "assumed consent" by which patients must explicitly opt out if they do not want details digitalised.

Although the DH reports that very few patients in pilot sites have exercised that right, the issue has become controversial following several high-profile breaches of data security in the public sector.

The DH's GP director for the summary care record Gillian Braunold told the public accounts committee that other parts of the UK were using a system known as "permission to access" or "consent to view". This involved patient records being automatically loaded on to the spine, or central database, but patients being asked to give their explicit consent before those records were accessed for the first time.

The committee also heard from Fujitsu, the company whose contract to implement the national programme for IT systems in the south of England was terminated by mutual consent last month. Managing director for public services Peter Hutchinson said Fujitsu had been "perfectly willing and able to deliver to the original contract", but that the DH had sought to "reset" the contract with unaffordable specifications.