FOR all the wonders of medical science and pharmaceuticals, very often it’s the simplest things that determine one’s health – exercise, diet, not smoking, friendships.

The simple things can also make a critical difference to patient outcomes in the NHS. How much sleep a doctor has had, for instance. Have they been working a string of punishing night shifts? Are they alert and fully focused on the case before them?

It is such a basic thing, yet it is still a problem throughout the health service.

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Six years ago, Dr Lauren Connelly died after her car veered off the M8 as she drove home from a night shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital. She was 23.

She was just seven weeks into her medical career, but was already telling colleagues she was worried about her tiredness after being made to work more than 100 hours a week.

Since then, her father Brian and members of the medical profession at all levels have campaigned for the working week of junior doctors to be reduced to safe levels.

In theory, the limit is 48 hours, but this is based on long-term averages which do not reflect the true picture.

Health Secretary Shona Robison says the government is committed to a true 48-hour week, but that work remains ongoing, with a working group now considering the details and delivery still over the horizon.

Junior doctors can still work seven day or night shifts in a row.

Many remain tired, potentially putting their own health and that of their patients at risk.

Dr Adam Collins, the new chairman of the BMA Scotland’s Junior Doctors Committee and a trainee anaesthetist in NHS Tayside, has a suggestion. It also has the benefit of simplicity.

As we report today, he is to press the government and NHS officials on a plan to improve conditions for junior doctors to help them rest between shifts.

He is pushing for a two-day break for those coming off nights to let them recuperate before going back on the wards.

He wants more flexible leave, so doctors are not locked into a grim, inflexible rota.

And he is asking for a return of beds and hot food for doctors working night shift.

The beds are not for naps between patients, but to allow doctors to catch up on sleep immediately after finishing their shift, so they do not have to drive home exhausted.

Doctors who are fed, rested and ready to get back to work.

How simple an idea is that?

Ms Robison has convened a working group with NHS Scotland employers and the BMA to investigate more help for junior doctors, “including agreeing a minimum period of rest following night shift working”.

We hope it is a short investigation: common sense does not require to be rubberstamped by a committee.

Ministers and health boards should institute these measures without delay, and prioritise a true 48-hour working week.

Public safety demands it.