The Magazine for spa and wellness in Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America​

Sue Harmsworth launches Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care

Sue Harmsworth, industry influencer and founder of ESPA, has brought together a group of owners and founders of leading training providers in the UK and Ireland to create the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care (SATCC).

The SATCC’s mission is to offer a national standard, providing people touched by cancer access to appropriately qualified therapists who’re capable of catering to cancer sufferers’ individual needs and to provide a safe platform for spas to find training courses.

The group’s advisory board has created an informed and jointly-agreed national standard which outlines guidelines for therapists on maintaining safe and effective methods of care while performing massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and other spa treatments on people affected by cancer.

The standards document features specific guidelines for therapists on how to prepare, plan and conduct cancer touch therapy as well as information regarding complex contra-indications such as heat and lymphedema, and how to handle these appropriately.

The charter provides a written policy communicating the SATCC’s scope, purpose and guidance for accreditation organisations, training providers, therapists and the public.

A SATCC web page is scheduled to launch in late May featuring educational materials and further information about the advisory board.

The need

Recent evidence has suggested one in two people born after 1970 in the UK are going to be touched by cancer, and that 60 per cent of both cancer patient cases and recurrent cancer cases are preventable by lifestyle choices.

Massage therapy can be used to support people who’ve had cancer and has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and improve sleep quality.

Yet despite this, a vast number of spas still turn away people touched by cancer – arguably at the time they need the most support – due to lack of knowledge and fear of liability.

For this reason, some clients don’t inform their therapist they’ve had cancer, meaning massages can’t be adapted appropriately to meet their needs.

Speaking to Spa Business, Harmsworth said: “Historically therapists have been cautious when dealing with customers who’ve had cancer – they’re carers and frightened of doing the wrong thing.

“The industry’s approach to serving those touched by cancer has been fragmented for many years, with consumers, trade, therapists and spas alike unsure of the terrain surrounding touch therapy and cancer.

“Ultimately, we have a responsibility to the therapist and the consumer to ensure they’re embraced by the wellness industry, rather than excluded,” she said.

Motivation to create the SATCC also stems from a group concern over the dilution of therapist training, specifically regarding operators trying to minimise the length and type of training for cancer touch therapy. The advisory board is concerned that many short courses are being offered which are not advanced or comprehensive enough to sufficiently educate therapists to accommodate those affected by cancer.

Advisory board members share a combined 327 years worth of industry expertise and have trained well over 10,000 therapists.

The advisory board includes Amanda Winwood, MD of Made for Life Organics products and Cancer Touch Therapy Training; Diane Hey, a standards and qualification technical advisor to the UK government’s Hairdressing And Beauty Industry Association (Habia), Jennifer Young, founder of specialist skincare range for cancer patients Defiant Beauty and Christine Clinton, founder of Christine Clinton Cancer Care. For a comprehensive list of all 13 board members, please see below.

“The passionate, well-educated and incredibly experienced individuals on the advisory board make the SATCC a highly credible, independent, governing body that promotes the support of individuals touched by cancer,” said Harmsworth.

Consumer awareness

Online consumer spa directory Spabreaks.com, founded by Abi Wright, is partnering with SATCC to allow consumers to identify which spas have SATCC-accredited therapists who are capable of accommodating those who have experienced cancer.

Spabreaks.com receives over one million consumer visits per month and lists more than 750 UK spas, 100 of which are already SATCC-approved, with Wright setting a goal to reach 250 approvals by December 2020.

In April, Spabreaks.com will launch a SATCC-certified landing page – called Our Safe Hands Collection – which will allow consumers to type in their postcode and find the nearest certified spa.

“I want to make sure those touched by cancer aren’t marginalised and are treated and supported,” said Wright. “I’m delighted about this partnership and so proud of Sue and the team.”

Training website

A partnership has also been struck with Kush Kumar, CEO of Think Tree Hub– an online professional association for complementary therapists, practitioners, courses providers and the public seeking professional health treatments, CPD and accredited courses.

Think Tree Hub displays a register of professionals and their accreditations, making them discoverable by spas and consumers. Individual therapists, practitioners and small business spas will be able to apply to Think Tree Hub and be registered as SATCC-accredited once their licence, certificates and insurance information have been successfully approved.

Any therapist who is already trained by one of the SATCC advisory board’s training providers will automatically be SATCC-accredited and eligible to register online.

The website will also launch an SATCC web page directing visitors to SATCC-accredited training providers and courses.

“All board members feel incredibly passionate about this topic and share the same intention,” said Kumar. “We’re collaborating and pooling our experience and knowledge in training to maximise the scope of reach and educate the industry on a topic with so much uncertainty around it.”

Kumar is one of five individuals on the board who can consult and advise those looking to set up a curriculum appropriate for treating people who’ve experienced cancer, in accordance with SATCC guidelines.

“It’s crucial that we take a humanistic and holistic approach to cancer touch therapy because it’s a complex and sensitive issue which, if dealt with correctly, can positively benefit those people’s physical, mental and emotional state of being.”

Kumar is passionate about focusing on education and believes it’s crucial in underpinning progress for cancer for touch therapy. He believes it will ensure the industry avoids misconceptions and welcomes those who have experienced cancer into spas, instead of turning them away.

Future plans

Harmsworth told Spa Business that the SATCC has plans to work with charities in future to help support those touched by cancer by directing them to its accredited spas.

Complete list of the SATCC’s committee

Amanda Winwood: MD of Made for Life Organics and founder of Made for Life Foundation and Cancer Touch Therapy Training
Christine Clinton: founder of Christine Clinton Cancer Care
Debbie Moore: co-founder of the Amethyst Trust
Diane Hey: standards and qualification technical advisor to Habia Board
Jennifer Young: owner of Jennifer Young and Defiant Beauty
John Holman: MD of Hydrotherm Massage Systems
Julie Speed: co-founder of the Amethyst Trust
Kim Ford: global consultancy examiner and lecturer
Kush Kumar: CEO of Think Tree Hub
Lisa Barden: group director of spa and wellness at Arora
Marc Innes: principal of School of Natural Therapies
Marian Hook: director of MJH Spa and Wellbeing
Sue Harmsworth: founder of ESPA and Sue Harmsworth Ltd

Find out more:

For spas wishing to register or find out more, please contact:

Individual therapists, complementary practitioners or small spas or businesses wishing to register, please contact ad***@th**********.com, as well as anyone who requires help setting up a curriculum or a list of accredited training providers.


Author: Fabiola

Subscribe to receive the
latest news and information from

Spa & Wellness MexiCaribe