Ian Carruthers

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Sir Ian James Carruthers OBE is a former senior director for the National Health Service (NHS). Having first joined the NHS in 1969 as an administrator at Garland Hospital, Carlisle, he rose through the ranks in a 43-year career which included six months in the top job as Acting Chief Executive of the NHS in England during 2006.[1]


Carruthers held management positions in Barnsley, Blackpool, Southend, Portsmouth and Plymouth before Chief Executive roles in Dorset and Somerset plus Hampshire and Isle of Wight regional health authorities.[2]

He was appointed Chief Executive of the South West Strategic Health Authority (NHS South West) on 1 July 2006. This SHA later "clustered" with NHS South East Coast and NHS South Central to become NHS South of England, led by Carruthers, ahead of the so-called "Lansley" reforms that signaled the end of SHAs, the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

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.[3]

He has undertaken a review of innovation in healthcare, culminating in chairing the Innovation Health and Wealth Board which formed part of the Government strategy for improving the spread of best practice in healthcare.[4]

He has published several papers on reviewing and improving the NHS and he co-chaired the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia.[5]

He chairs the public service consultancy, 2020 Delivery.[6] and has a portfolio of interests relating to healthcare.

Sir Ian is Visiting Senior Fellow of the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham, where his published papers include:[7]

  • 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)

In May 2011 it was announced he would be taking up the position of Chancellor of the University of the West of England.[8]

John Watkinson controversy[edit]

Ian Carruthers and the South West SHA were criticised by an employment tribunal following the dismissal by Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust of its chief executive John Watkinson; however an independent review conducted by Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, former president of the Law Society, concluded that there had been no impropriety. Mr Watkinson argued that his dismissal was because he had opposed SHA plans to reconfigure upper gastrointestinal services within the South West of England by centralising services at Plymouth on the grounds that there had been insufficient public consultation and the process was therefore illegal. Mr Watkinson took his case to an employment tribunal which held, unanimously, that Mr Watkinson had been unfairly dismissed. NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson subsequently commissioned an independent review (conducted by Verita) “into the approach and behaviour of NHS South West in relation to the dismissal of John Watkinson by Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust”. Its report concluded: "We consider that Sir Ian behaved correctly towards Mr Watkinson …..The evidence provided to us shows that the SHA complied with its duty to assist and support RCHT in managing these difficult issues. There is no issue of impropriety or of pressure to dismiss Mr Watkinson."[9]


Ian Carruthers received an OBE in 1997, and a Knighthood in the 2003 New Year Honours for services to the NHS. In 2009 he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of the West of England.[10] He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Bristol in July 2011.[11]

Personal life[edit]

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.[3]