DOCTORS, nurses and NHS managers who wilfully neglect patients could face jail under plans being examined by the Scottish Government.

SNP ministers are "actively considering" the idea, which is to be introduced south of the Border following care scandals in Mid Staffordshire and other English NHS trusts.

UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce details of the offence, which would carry a jail term of up to five years, next week.

In Scotland, ministers are ­considering whether a specific offence is required, or whether ­causing harm to patients would already be covered under the common law. If a new offence is merited, one option would be to add it to the Public Bodies (Joint Working) Bill now going through Holyrood, which will integrate the adult health and social care services provided by the NHS and councils.

The bill affects elderly and ­vulnerable patients who are often victims of neglect.

If an offence was introduced in this way, government sources say it would make sense to extend it to all of those who look after patients, not just NHS doctors and staff.

Doctors and guardians who wilfully neglect vulnerable adults can already be jailed for two years under an offence in the Adults with Incapacity ­(Scotland) Act 2000.

A government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government believes that effective leadership and constant attention to quality and safety is the way to reduce harm to patients, whether intended or unintended.

"We will analyse these proposals once published by the UK Government and will consider if further legislation is required in Scotland to supplement the existing arrangements of professional regulation."