NHS workers have accused senior staff of exercising a "two-tier system", after top brass received bumper bonuses while frontline employees fight for their jobs.

A health boss whose staff are facing drastic changes to pay and conditions has also come under fire for "showing complete disharmony" with colleagues after posting details of his new boat on the internet.

Shaun Clee, chief executive of 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Gloucester, took to micro-blogging site Twitter to inform his "followers" of the purchase, made during a recent trip to St Austell in Cornwall.

He wrote: "Round trip to St Austell. Sea trial resulted in new boat - oops!"

Prompted by one of his followers to explain whether that meant he had bought a new boat, the health boss replied: "I am afraid I have to plead guilty."

He added that the purchase - thought to have cost between £10,000 and £15,000 - was not "as elegant" as a sailing boat, describing it as "a fast day boatfor inshore or river fishing".

The personal spend comes at a time when the Gloucester health body is one of nearly two dozen trusts in the South West to have joined a so-called "pay cartel" to try to cut the pay and conditions of each trust's staff, by breaking away from the national agreement which covers NHS staff.

Workers could be made redundant and forced to sign new terms of employment if they fail to agree to the proposals.

Helen Hancox, regional officer for the Royal College of Nursing South West, said Mr Clee was allowed to spend his income as he wished, but described his decision to post details of the purchase on Twitter as "unpalatable".

She added: "He's obviously got the disposable income to go off and buy a boat, yet many staff - who have not had a pay rise in two years - are struggling to pay their rent.

"I think it was ill-advised and disrespectful. It almost seems like he is gloating about the boat, and shows complete disharmony with the majority of staff who are fighting cuts to pay and conditions."

In a statement, the trust described the timing of its chief executive's comments as "regrettable".

NHS workers have also accused three directors from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, including the chief executive, of hypocrisy after they took home bumper pay deals despite the trust having to make multimillion-pound budget cuts.

They took home one-off lump sums as a replacement for performance-related pay.

Chief executive Dr Frank Harsent took home between £210,000 and £215,000 in the last financial year, compared with between £185,000 and £190,000 in 2010-11.

Director of finance Sarah Truelove took home between £145,000 and £150,000 in 2011-12, up from £130,000-£135,000, while trust human resources and organisational development director Dave Smith, who oversaw a recent cost-cutting resignation scheme, was on a £100,000-105,000 pay bracket in 2010-11. Last year he took home between £110,000 and £115,000.

Lisa Youlton, regional manager for the Unison union, described the actions as "a slap in the face" for those who are fighting possible changes to pay and conditions.

She added: "We are furious about this. Some of our members are facing pay cuts of up to 15%, so to see senior staff salaries increase at this time smacks of hypocrisy.

"There is clearly a two-tier system - the senior staff at the top with increasing pay packets, and the large majority who are worried about the threat of redundancies."

In a statement, the trust said: "All executive salaries are decided by the remuneration committee - which is made up of the chair and non-executive directors.

"The remuneration committee (has) held executive basic pay at the same level since 2009. This anticipated but was consistent with the general pay freeze in operation for the last two years.

The statement said the rise in remuneration did "not constitute a pay increase, being a one-off, non-pensionable, lump sum payment and executive salaries for 2012/13 have reverted to the 2010/11 figures".