Mid Staffs whistleblower Amanda Pollard has been recognised at an international whistleblowing conference, receiving an award for her part in exposing negligent inspection methods within the Care Quality Commission.
The former Care Quality Commission inspector picked up the 'Middlesex University Whistleblowing Award', at the International Whistleblowing Research Network Conference. It is awarded in recognition of an outstanding achievement in making a disclosure of information in the public interest.
Pollard was one of the key figures in exposing the inadequate ways of inspection within the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the national healthcare inspector – and the NHS, particularly in relation to the poor level of patient care at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. She later gave evidence to the Francis Inquiry into the serious problems at Mid Staffordshire between January 2005 and March 2009.
She tried to alert CQC management to her concerns and warned that the organisation would not be able to spot another scandal in patient care such as in Mid Staffordshire.
Pollard specialised in infection control and it had been the spread of infection that claimed many of the needless deaths in Mid Staffordshire. Pollard told the Francis Inquiry that changes to the way inspections were carried out meant that she and her colleagues found themselves inspecting sectors in which they had no expertise or knowledge. Inspectors with no healthcare backgrounds were told to inspect hospitals, and no adequate training was given.
Amanda Pollard told delegates at the conference: "It was important for me personally to let the Mid Staffs Public Inquiry know about how NHS regulation had changed for the worse. When I was working for the Healthcare Commission the infection control inspections were thorough and cleanliness of hospitals improved as a result. The methodology was sound and the assessment of inspection decisions was robust. When the CQC introduced their new methodology for inspections, inspectors were quite worried. Our concerns were founded, but no-one wanted to listen.
"It will be two years in November that I appeared at the Inquiry, and this time has been more difficult than I expected. It makes this recognition by the International Whistleblowing Research Network Conference particularly gratifying. I am very surprised and overwhelmed by this award, and hope that I can raise the profile about the difficulties of whistleblowing."
Convener of the International Whistleblowing Research Network and Middlesex University Professor of Employment Law, David Lewis said: "Whistleblowers serve private and public interests when they raise concerns about wrongdoing. However, rather that encouraging them, many employers have victimised the purveyors of bad news. The Middlesex University award is an attempt to change attitudes so that whistleblowers are recognised as heroes rather than villains. Amanda was very brave in speaking out in difficult circumstances and that is why we are gathering to applaud rather than shoot the messenger."
The International Whistleblowing Research Network Conference brings together top researchers in the area of whistleblowing from America, Australia and The Netherlands amongst others.