The BMJ Today: Ebola, Edinburgh, edifices

deputy chair of MJA on stage (1)Ebola and the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence have, among other things, spared UK national newspaper editors the anxiety of how to fill column inches in the “silly season” month of August. The BMJ can at least drop a print and iPad issue, as it is doing this week, but we and other general medical journals are devoting online space to showcase resources about the Ebola outbreak. Visit to find out more.

Our page lists articles and also shows two video interviews, one of them with Tim O’Dempsey, who recently returned to the UK from Kenema in Sierra Leone, where he worked in a Lassa fever/Ebola virus disease treatment centre.

Dr O’Dempsey tells clinical editor Navjoyt Ladher how early Ebola outbreaks were handled after the first one in 1976, what we learned from them, and how Ebola is preventable.

He arrived at the hospital to find nursing staff on strike. They had teams under extreme pressure to treat patients and deal with colleagues who were also dying from the disease. Their efforts were hampered by a paucity of equipment. There were no blood pressure cuffs or monitors, for example.

Let’s talk about Scottish independence, and a plug for the excellent head to head debate on The Conversation blog about whether or not the devolved NHS is fair game for the “yes” and “no” campaigners.

To get the background, read The BMJs News story about how UK prime minister David Cameron locked horns with Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond over whether or not independence would protect the health service from privatisation.

As you read this, I will be in Edinburgh, where 12 years ago a blaze left part of its medieval Old Town in ruins, forcing 150 people to flee their homes, and leaving a gaping hole in its historic skyline. In April, a 14 year old girl died when a wall in an Edinburgh school collapsed and landed on top of her.

What are the health implications of urban building collapse? Patralekha Chatterjee examines this question from an Indian perspective, a year after the Rana Plaza disaster in neighbouring Bangladesh.

In June, a four storey building in New Delhi left 10 people dead when it crashed to the ground. And there were 61 fatalities, also in June, when an 11 storey structure under construction in Chennai collapsed.

The social media backlash is piling pressure on Indian politicians and judiciary, Chatterjee finds. Central government is preparing an agenda for individual state bodies to check illegal structures and building violations. But what role can centrally funded centres of excellence, such as the J P N Apex Trauma Center, play?

David Payne is editor,, and readers’ editor.