Disabled patients and visitors at Barnet Hospital are having to fork out for parking under new rules in a bid to claw back a £10 million overspend.

Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust is now forcing disabled drivers, who used to be exempt from the charges, to pay the £4 flat-rate daily charge whether they stay for five minutes or 24 hours.

The new rules will also apply to able-bodied drivers bringing disabled patients to the hospital, which serves two-thirds of Hertsmere residents.

Ray Morris, from Woodside, Elstree, who regularly takes his 86-year-old disabled mother to the hospital, said: "It's an utter disgrace.

"They seem to have forgotten that it's patients going to hospital, not people going shopping.

"Disabled people can park wherever they like normally, with special exemptions to make their lives easier. But when they get to the hospital, their lives are made ten times harder. It's just not on and disabled people shouldn't have to pay for parking. It's disgusting."

Despite the cash-strapped trust making savings of £14 million over the last financial year, it still overspent by £10 million and the Department of Health has instructed it to make further savings of £31 million.

Averil Dongworth, the trust's chief executive, said: "The trust recognises it has it has a duty to provide designated car parking spaces to disabled drivers, which are convenient, close and accessible to the main hospital buildings.

However, we no longer feel we can waive the charge given our current financial difficulties.

"All hospitals charge for car parking and this provides vital income for the hospitals.

"All income from car parking is put back into hospital budgets and, given the trust's current financial situation, we need to maximise our income to avoid having to make reductions which may impact on patient services."

Mr Morris said: "It's not only about the money but the sheer inconvenience.

"If you don't have the correct money, you have to leave your car, go all the way to the cash office on the third floor and all the way back down again.

"That's enough for anyone let alone the elderly and disabled."

Last month it was revealed that the trust made £1 million from parking charges last year.