NHS campaigner Julie Bailey, who helped expose failings at Stafford Hospital, has described being made a CBE as "recognition" for all health whistleblowers.
She set up the Cure the NHS group after the death of her mother Bella at the hospital in 2007.
A campaign successfully led to a public inquiry by Robert Francis, which uncovered cases of neglect and abuse.
Ms Bailey picked up her CBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
It was in recognition for services to the care of older people.
Speaking after the ceremony, Ms Bailey said: "It's really exciting that I've received recognition for all the hard work, not only myself but the group as well and everybody else within the NHS who's tried to speak out, whistleblowers from all over the country - it was a recognition that we've done the right thing."
'Really difficult battle'
The Francis Inquiry, which ran for a year in 2010-11, looked at why a higher than expected number of deaths at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 was not picked up earlier.
"It's been a really difficult battle, it really has," Ms Bailey said.
"We've got a long way to go but I really feel we're starting to break down defences, and there's a lot more to do for the vulnerable within this society."
"I live in a caravan in Worcestershire. I was driven out of my home, of my business and away from my friends for raising the alarm. I left Stafford with my head held high, knowing I'd done the right thing," she said.
Ms Bailey said of her mother: "She would have been really proud. I wish she'd been able to be with me - she was there in spirit."