More than 5,000 staff were handed the gift voucher as a reward by Southampton University Hospitals Trust after it had a record-breaking first year.
But the chief executive, David Moss, was given a more substantial reward for the trust's success - a 100 per cent pay rise. He is now believed to be the fourth-highest-paid health chief in Britain.
By comparison, nursing staff in the NHS were given a pay rise of 1.5 per cent.
Mr Moss, 46, a father of three, said the rise was justified. "I have a wide range of responsibilities. I have a very demanding job for which, I admit, I am quite well paid."
Mr Moss, who was also given one of the £5 vouchers to spend in the high street chemists, added: "My salary is not out of line within the NHS and it is well below that paid to people with similar positions in industry."
A trust spokesman said: "We are doing very well as a trust and the board felt they should show a token of their appreciation.
"Of course David Moss earns more money because he is the chief executive; that is the nature of organisations. It is the difference between working for a company and then becoming a director of it."
The trust now treats 500,000 patients each year - more than any other in the UK.
A spokesman for the staff union, Unison, said the gift voucher was insulting. "All the staff are shocked."Reuse content