Ruth Levitt obituary

Other lives: Expert on NHS community health councils who also worked in public policy, politics and publishing

My friend Ruth Levitt, who has died aged 66 from cancer, put into practice her strong beliefs in the public good and the importance of culture in a varied career that included posts in the NHS, academia, publishing and management consultancy.

Born in London, she grew up in a secular Jewish family, the daughter of Harry Levitt, a GP, and his wife, Herma (nee Lang). Ruth attended Camden school for girls, then started social science studies at Sheffield University before switching to LSE.

She began her working life with the NHS, and became an expert on the then new community health councils established in 1974 to provide a voice for patients. Ruth published a widely used textbook, The Reorganised National Health Service (1976), which went to six editions. Her next move was to an academic appointment in public policy at Bristol University. Then, inspired by the formation of the Social Democratic party, she moved into politics, working for David Owen and standing, unsuccessfully, for Nuneaton in the 1983 general election.

After a spell in social science publishing with Routledge, her interest turned towards art and she took a PhD at UCL on the 17th-century Dutch painter Albert Cuyp, learning Dutch on the way. She then went to work for the Macmillan Dictionary of Art and translated Dutch authors, including Tessa de Loo and Marga Minco.

Deciding to combine art with an interest in management, she took an MBA from the Open University. This led her into her next career – management consultancy for a range of arts organisations including the V&A and Ashmolean museums.

In later years she returned to research. As a visiting academic at King’s College London she worked with Bill Solesbury on projects including the role of policy tsars. She also worked on Jewish history. After adding German to her repertoire, she translated Holocaust testimony for the Wiener Library and edited a book, Pogrom November 1938 (2015), about Kristallnacht.

Ruth was a keen musician, playing the violin in amateur string quartets and the piano. She displayed enormous determination in everything and did not compromise. After her diagnosis with bowel cancer, having always cycled, she continued to do so, to and from her hospice. She maintained her inquiring mind and keen interest in the world.

She is survived by her brother, David.

Lekha Klouda

The GuardianTramp

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