PLANS to hold more meetings behind closed doors at the Royal Berkshire Hospital will stifle public debate, it has been claimed.

Deborah Sander, who stepped down as vice chairwoman of the hospital's Council of Governors, has challenged proposals by trust bosses' proposals to slash the number of meetings the elected group holds in public during the year from six to three.

The plans, discussed at last Thursday's Council of Governors meeting, will signal a focus on private committees and informal workshops, and recommendations in the meeting's agenda stresses the change will "improve the flow of information" claiming the council is "not the best place for detailed discussions".

But Ms Sander, who stepped down from her post in November after completing her year in office insists the meetings are a vital opportunity for the press and public to question hospital leaders and added: "It is important to ask these questions in public so the answers can be heard in public and can be noted by the press. We try as public governors to relate back to our constituency but it is the press that are our best conduit to the community. I plea that the governors and the board work together so that all of this can be accountable to the public."

But current vice chairwoman Vera Doe, defended the changes, and added: "It's part of building for the future so we can be a much more open and transparent management team. We don't want to do things in secret that isn't the intention."

Earlier in the meeting David Mihell, a public governor for East Berkshire, denied the plans signalled a huge reduction in meetings and added: "Less is more and the public can be better served."