Hospital managers are set to receive 30% bonuses that would take their annual pay close to
£200,000, it is reported.
Officials say equivalent bonuses will be available to all NHS staff
The proposed bonuses would see senior managers taking home more than many consultants.
Foundation hospitals will be able to grant the bonuses without the approval of local health authorities, according to The Times newspaper.
Plans for foundation hospitals have already been bitterly opposed by many
And the reported new pay deal will fuel concerns that foundation trusts will form an elite breakaway "premier league" able to attract the best managers and staff while other hospitals struggle to fill vacancies.
The Department of Health says equivalent annual bonuses will be available to all NHS staff "from porters and nurses up to chief executives".
"It is important the NHS is able to attract and retain high calibre
staff at all levels and this is just one of the ways we are doing it," a spokeswoman said.
But Conservative health spokesman Simon Burns told The Times: "The government may argue these bonuses are simply to help recruitment and retention - but what happens is five years down they line they get ingrained in the system and become the norm."
He added: "Patients, particularly those on waiting lists, will be outraged to hear chief executives who aren't exactly badly paid are going to benefit when the money could be better spent on patient care."
London's Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital chief executive Dr Jonathan Michael earned £171,000 in 2001-2002, according to The Times.
Trust chairwoman Patricia Mobley defended his salary to the paper.
"We need high-quality chief executives.
""These people are rare.
"You won't get them if you don't pay them."