World Cancer Day: SATCC announces Irene Forte Spas collaboration

By Lauren Heath-Jones


By Lauren Heath-Jones

04 February 2022

As part of today’s World Cancer Day (February 4), the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care (SATCC) has announced a new collaboration with Irene Forte Spas, part of Rocco Forte Hotels, that will make its spas and spa treatments more accessible to people living with cancer. 

Founded by Sue Harmsworth in 2021, the SATCC is a UK-based industry body that aims to revolutionise the way spas and therapists cater to those with cancer.

Speaking to European Spa about the development, the industry veteran said she and the board were “thrilled with the collaboration”. 

“This prestigious brand allows our international expansion into Italy and reflects the exemplary training standards for which the SATCC has become known for.”

Sue Harmsworth

Founder, SATCC

Discussing the importance of accommodating those touched by cancer within spas, Irene Forte added: “I think it’s incredibly important and necessary to provide consumers touched by cancer with a safe haven to relax both mind and body.

“The work the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care is doing is fantastic, and I’m delighted that Irene Forte Skincare is launching therapies in its spas for those living with and recovering from cancer.

“This is being done in partnership with The Amethyst Trust, an SATCC approved provider. Starting with guided breathwork, our SATCC accredited therapists will personalise facial or body experiences to suit individual needs, enabling inner calm and encouraging total relaxation.”

“The work the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care is doing is fantastic, and I'm delighted that Irene Forte Skincare is launching therapies in its spas for those living with and recovering from cancer.”

Irene Forte

Founder and CEO, Irene Forte Skincare

Aimed at spa guests and operators, the organisation was set up to offer clarity to the spa industry and give confidence to consumers regarding the availability of cancer-safe treatments.  It also provides a safe and recognised platform for operators to find accredited training courses, and two comprehensive databases – one powered by and one powered by the SATCC – where guests can find qualified therapists who are able to meet their needs. 

Additionally, the SATCC acts as a recognised benchmark for operators and therapists and ensures that cancer-safe training is delivered to an industry-recognised standard.

The SATCC aims to foster confidence regarding the availability of cancer-safe treatments | ©Canva

With one in two people in the UK expected to experience cancer in their lifetime, everyone will at some point will be touched by the disease, whether we suffer from it ourselves or are supporting a friend or loved one through treatment and recovery. 

While it would be a fair assumption to think that spas provide sanctuaries for those with a cancer diagnosis, the reality tells a different story, with many spas refusing to give treatments to cancer patients due to a lack of insurance. The SATCC aims to change that. 

European Spa’s Sarah Camilleri spoke more with Sue Harmsworth about the SATCC board and how the initiative can help spa guests, operators and therapists.

Sue Harmsworth founded the SATCC to revolutionise the way spas and therapists cater to those with cancer

Why was the SATCC 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. 

“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.” 

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

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 to access 240 spas with SATCC accreditation, as well as’s ‘Find a Spa’ function, offering details of its 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

“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.

The SATCC aims to equip therapists with the skills to confidently deliver cancer touch therapies | ©Canva

What inspired you to launch SATCC? 

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.

“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.”

Massage can help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep

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. 

“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.”

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

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. 

“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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