SECRET meetings allowing NHS bosses to discuss changes to Oxfordshire’s health services will now be held, after a motion was passed by the county’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC).

The newly-formed ‘HOSC Planning Group’ will gather twice a month to discuss health matters and upcoming 'developments' to health and care services.

However, opponents have reacted with anger at the news saying the move would prevent the public from having a voice and could jeopardise the independence of the scrutiny committee

The bi-monthly behind-closed-doors meetings will see a small contingent of the HOSC - the group tasked with holding Oxfordshire's health bodies to account - gather with the Clinical Commissioning Group - the body tasked with commissioning health services.

Only what are deemed to be 'substantial' changes to services would be referred up to the HOSC meetings for full scrutiny by the new group.

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, one member of the public urged members of the committee to reject the motion.

She said: “Don’t throw away our only real voice to question and to scrutinise change through this disruptive protocol and behind closed doors non-democratic committee.”

However HOSC chairman, Arash Fatemian argued the planning group would allow developments to be discussed more informally and at shorter notice, while claiming no decisions on changes to health services would be made.

He also said the decision on what constituted as ‘substantial’ would be left down to the HOSC members.

The move comes following a government-ordered review into the closure of Deer Park Medical Centre in Witney.

The closure in 2016 left hundreds of west Oxfordshire residents without a GP.

Councillor Laura Price agreed that changes to the way HOSC operated needed to be made after the committee was given little time to affect the decision on Deer Park.

However, she added: “I don’t see any problems with us being radical and saying these are well attended public meetings, people take a lot interest, and we should open the doors.”

The motion was passed by a majority of eight to three.