Research by the Daily Telegraph has shown more than 7,800 were paid over £100,000 last year with a third earning more than David Cameron's £142,500 salary.
The newspaper said the number of consultants and managers earning six-figure salaries increased slightly in the past three years in spite of the £20 billion efficiency savings programme in the NHS. Their total pay also rose over the same period, amounting to almost £1 billion last year, according to the newspaper.
The trust with the highest number on six figures was Southampton, with 384, the newspaper said. A Care Quality Commission report last year said there were improvements needed in the standards of staffing at Southampton General Hospital.
The minimum pay for a registered nurse is £21,388 and Dr Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, said the finding "sends completely the wrong message to hard-working front line staff".
"Nurses are already battling to keep the NHS going because of deep cuts in the number of front line staff," he said. "On top of that they are seeing their pay being cut in real terms. Nurses who are working under intense pressure and struggling to make ends meet often feel undervalued, especially if senior NHS staff are not experiencing the same restraints on their pay. This sends completely the wrong message to hard working front line staff."
The number of NHS staff paid more than £100,000 has increased in the past year at almost half of the 75 trusts surveyed, the newspaper said. In some parts of England, the number of high-earners has risen by more than 50%.
At Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, the subject of a public inquiry by Robert Francis QC over the "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people", a total of 85 staff are paid more than £100,000, up from 79 the year before, the newspaper said.
The Department of Health said over the last three years pay restraint has applied equally to doctors and managers on national terms as for other NHS staff such as nurses. A spokesman said: "NHS staff carry out a vital role in caring for the nation. Many of these staff are senior consultants and their pay reflects responsibilities and clinical skills. However, pay restraint is essential right across the public sector, and the NHS cannot be exempt from that."