Lord Ramsbotham was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade, later the Royal Green Jackets, on coming down from Cambridge in 1957. He retired from the Army in 1993, in the rank of General.
Between then and 1995 he chaired the Hillingdon NHS Hospital Trust, and worked for a Private Security Company on post-conflict reconstruction including demining.
From 1995 to 2001 he was HM Chief Inspector of Prisons during which period he published a thematic review entitled 'Patient or Prisoner?' recommending that responsibility for prison healthcare should be taken over by the NHS, which was achieved in 2003.
He was appointed a crossbench member of the House of Lords in May 2005, where he focuses on all aspects of penal reform.