He has held a variety of senior appointments including:
- Acting chief executive of the NHS in England for 6 months during 2006
- Acting Director of Commissioning for the NHS and joint chief executive of Dorset and Somerset Strategic Health Authority
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight Strategic Health Authority.
Carruthers first started working in the NHS at Garland Hospital, Carlisle in 1969 in an administrative role. He subsequently held management posts in Barnsley, Blackpool, Southend, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Between 1987 and 2006 he was Acting District general manager for East Dorset Health Authority, District general manager at West Dorset Health Authority, chief executive of the Dorset Health Commission, and chief executive of the Dorset Health Authority.
During the year until 1 April 1995, Carruthers was seconded to the South and West Regional Health Authority as Regional general manager/Regional Director of the NHS Executive, and from 1 December 2004 to 31 July 2005, he was seconded to the Department of Health, on a part-time basis, as Transitional Director of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.
Other roles include serving on the Department of Health Financial Strategy Steering Group and on the Strategic Health Authorities Chief Executives Reference Group on Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health. In the past Carruthers was a member of the NHS Modernisation Board, the National Steering and Advisory Group for Shifting the Balance of Power within the NHS and he also served as a member on the Modernisation Action Team on Patient Access which contributed to the NHS Plan. On 7 March 2006 he took over as acting NHS chief executive, following the departure of Sir Nigel Crisp. He held this position until September that year, being succeeded by David Nicholson.
- Improving HImPs: the Early Lessons (ref RR35; I Carruthers, J Shapiro, T Knight)
- Purchasing in the NHS: The Story so far (1995, ref DP34) (I Carruthers, D Fillingham, C Ham, J James)
- Doctors in Unit Management (ref HS16, I Carruthers, G Page, D White)
- Options for strengthening Unit management. The implications for personnel, financial and functional management, planning, monitoring and communications (1982; ref HS13) (I Carruthers, C Fewtrell, D White)
- Reviewing the strength of Unit nursing management: An audit approach (1981; ref HS12)
John Watkinson controversy
Ian Carruthers was heavily criticised by an employment tribunal for his role in the dismissal of John Watkinson the chief executive of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. Mr Watkinson objected to Ian Carruthers' plans to reconfigure upper gastrointestinal services within the South West of England by centalising services at Plymouth on the grounds that there had been insufficient public consultation and the process was therefore illegal. Following these objections Mr Watkinson was suspended and then dismissed and subsequently took his case to an employment tribunal which held, unanimously, that Mr Watkinson had been unfairly dismissed and sharply criticised Ian Carruthers' behaviour. The likely cost of the tribunal and compensation for the bullying which Mr Watkinson received is inexcess of £2 million.
Married with a son and daughter Carruthers is a keen sportsman who won county caps for Cumbria in rugby union, cricket and soccer in his school days. He was offered a playing contract by Carlisle United football club but turned it down at the insistence of his father.
- The Guardian, 14 June 2006: "Interview: Sir Ian Carruthers – The steady hand"
- University of Birmingham Health Services Management Centre – Publications List
- "Sir Ian Carruthers OBE named as new UWE Chancellor". University of the West of England. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
- Hammond, Phil. "Dr Phil's Private Eye Column Issue 1263, May 12, 2010". Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Lakhani, Nina (11 September 2011). "NHS trust faces £2m legal bill after battle with whistleblower". The Independent (London). Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- "UWE Bulletin". January 2010. p. 22. Retrieved 29 January 2010.