Small gestures can make all the difference in making sure health and care staff treat elderly people with the dignity they deserve, a campaigner has said.

Jean Walker, Bradford’s older people’s champion, said asking people whether they preferred being addressed by their first name or surname, and making sure they were never spoken about as if they were not in the room, were just two ways staff could make a real difference.

Mrs Walker, co-chairman of Bradford Older People’s Partnership, will be one of the speakers at a Dignity Action Day event at Keighley Town Hall tomorrow, which is being held to remind health and social care workers of the need to make dignity a priority when they care for older and vulnerable people.

Mrs Walker said hospital staff were usually good at treating people with respect, but it was not always the case. One complaint was when medical staff talked about an older patient as if they were not in the room.

She said: “They came and talked to you in bed as a person but as soon as your family had come you were ignored and they were talking to your family as if you weren’t there. Don’t you think that takes something away from somebody?”

Mrs Walker also urged staff to ask elderly people how they preferred to be addressed.

But she stressed that respect worked both ways and that older people also had a duty to treat others with courtesy, especially when offered help.

Other speakers will include the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, and Paul Smithson, of the Alzheimer’s Society.

This year, the National Dignity Council-run Dignity Action Day falls on Saturday but there are a host of events being held over the coming days around the district. These include a balloon release at Beckfield care home in Bradford on Tuesday where residents will be asked to write their memories of being treated with dignity on notes to attach to each balloon.