‘The time is now’ – European Spa backs call for spas to offer cancer care training to therapists

Sue Harmsworth MBE and Amanda Winwood spoke to Sarah Camilleri about the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care, why it was set up and what the board can do for spas, operators and guests


By Sarah Camilleri

20 October 2021

Cancer-safe spa treatments and the shortage of cancer care-trained therapists were hot topics at this year’s SpaFest, with ESPA and Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care (SATCC) founder Sue Harmsworth, MBE speaking on a panel alongside European Spa’s founding editor and SpaFest co-director Sarah Camilleri and Made for Life Organics and SpaFest founder Amanda Winwood.

The trio discussed the importance of access to spa therapies for those living with and recovering from cancer. Other speakers on the panel included cancer survivor Lisa Moore and Dröm co-founder Kicki Carlson. 

European Spa asks Sue why the SATCC has been set up while Amanda outlines what the initiative can do for spa guests, operators and therapists:

SATCC believes that the spa and wellness industry will be needed more than ever to benefit people living with cancer

Why has the SATCC been founded? 

Sue Harmsworth (SH): “It’s time for the wellness, spa and beauty industry to whole-heartedly support those living with cancer and offer them treatments that positively impact their mental and physical wellbeing.

“The rise of cancer has been meteoric and it’s something that can’t be ignored. It has taken time, but the medical profession has definitely improved its whole approach to complementary medicine with many oncologists now recommending massage to help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and provide people with much-needed touch and connection. 

Massage can help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and provide people with much-needed touch and connection

“People going through cancer are touched during their treatment but in a very different way to what spas can offer. The medical process can be lonely and isolating so if they are able to enjoy a gentle, nurturing massage it can really make them feel human again.”

How does the SATCC work to address the issue? 

SH: “Our purpose is two-fold. Firstly, we are here to guide the consumer and help them find safe, properly trained and welcoming spas, salons and therapists who can offer treatments. 

“Our website is very easy to use – all you have to do is pop in your postcode and use our ‘Find a Spa’ list to access 120 spas with SATCC accreditation as part of the Safe Hands for Cancer Collection. We also help people ‘Find a Therapist’ by offering details of 220 accredited wellness practitioners, salons and complementary health clinics, supported by

One in two people in the UK will experience cancer in their lifetimes

“Secondly, but very importantly, we are here to support the spa industry. The SATCC’s mission is to raise industry standards and give spa teams the tools and confidence to deal with guests living with cancer – all the empathy, knowledge, training, protocols and skills they need to confidently deliver cancer touch therapies.”

What inspired you to launch SATCC right now? 

SH: “I have been touched by cancer, losing two of my best friends and also seeing my daughter-in-law go through the illness. But the thing that really galvanised me to take action was seeing people being turned away by spas when they needed us most. This is so psychologically damaging and ultimately quite unnecessary.

Sue Harmsworth founded SATCC to address the issue of spa access to those living with and beyond cancer

“I also believe that this is the right time for us to step up. The Covid-19 pandemic has really brought to the fore that everyone in the wellness hospitality business needs to do everything they can for their guests.

“For too long, hoteliers have hidden behind legal insurance excuses to say they can’t train therapists to perform spa treatments for people with cancer. My argument is that if one in two people are going to face this illness in their lives then those people are already staying in our hotels and using our spas. If you don’t make them welcome now and ensure your teams have proper cancer-related training, then you are doing a great disservice to these guests.”

The SATCC aims to raise industry standards and equip spa therapists with the skills to confidently deliver cancer touch therapies ©Canva

The time to invest in your therapists and guests is now...

SATCC Advisory board member and Made for Life Organics founder Amanda Winwood, told European Spa what the SATCC can offer spas and guests


The SATCC has been set up to offer clarity for the spa industry and give confidence to consumers about the availability of safe treatments for those who have or are suffering from cancer. 


It has taken well over a year to research and develop for launch. Our 14-strong advisory board has over 300 years of training experience spa, hospitality, education and training. Our mission is to upskill our workforce as we believe that the spa and wellness industry will be needed more than ever to benefit people living with cancer. 


Supported by and, our new SATCC website gives consumers a fast postcode search for spas that welcome those with cancer. 

"It’s time to support people living with cancer by throwing our spa and salon doors wide open. It’s a simple fact of heartfelt humanity."

Amanda Winwood

Founder of Made for Life Organics and SpaFest, and advisory board member, SATCC

For spas and interested wellness professionals, SATCC also provides access to accredited training so they can join the very best spas in the country making spa time accessible for all.


There has been no benchmark in the past – that is the simple truth. Therefore, there has been no consistency. This has been confusing for many spa and salon operators, as well as individual therapists.


In addition, it has been difficult for people living with cancer to access information about where they can be safely treated. We aim to change this.


The time is now to invest in your therapists and guests because the simple fact is that many more people will be diagnosed with cancer than COVID-19 in the coming months.

How will the SATCC’s services help spas more generally? 

SH: “The rise in cancer cases creates an industry-wide need for more advanced therapists, but SATCC training can also help spa teams deal with the huge anxiety that has been catalysed by the coronavirus. 

“We are asking young therapists to deal with so much more than they have ever done before so it’s our duty to prepare them better. 

Spa guests living with cancer are still being refused treatments in spas due to lack of training and insurance ©Canva

“As an industry, we are entering a new paradigm and the pandemic means everything is exaggerated and changes come faster. Even before it struck we were seeing increases in technology-induced anxiety and sleep deprivation as well as obesity, Type-2 diabetes and cancer.

“People had already started taking more ownership of their own health, but the pandemic has really emphasised this and spas need to have the right tools to help them achieve improvements.”

What are the ultimate aims for this initiative? 

SH: “I would like the UK spa and wellness industry to be regarded as a key support option for the NHS. The government has undervalued what we do and we need to change this perception. 

The rise in cancer cases has created an industry-wide need for more advanced therapists ©Canva

“Many people in our workforce are very young and would really benefit from training to develop their emotional intelligence and communication skills to be able to deal sensitively with guests who require a deeper level of awareness.

“Every person diagnosed with cancer copes in their own way and our aim at the SATCC is to ensure that spa and wellness therapies remain an option for those dealing with what will possibly be one of the greatest challenges they’ll face. Together as an industry, we have a duty to embrace those living with cancer and help enhance their lives.”

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