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Spabreaks.com Founder, Abi Selby on why the Safe Hands initiative is important to her

This month, Spabreaks.com has proudly launched its Safe Hands initiative, starting with Safe Hands for Cancer. It’s the latest in an ongoing journey to consistently improve the personalisation and meaningful support that spas are able to offer guests at all stages of health and wellbeing. Here, Abi Selby, the Founder of Spabreaks.com talks about what it is and what it means to her…

What does Safe Hands mean to you?

To me, Safe Hands is really at the heart of what a spa break is all about - nurturing wellbeing and giving people a space and time in which they can feel safe and supported mentally and physically. While that’s what spas have generally been about, that hasn’t always been possible when anyone has anything other than ‘perfect’ health, because there wasn’t the space to personalise spa experiences - everything has followed one size fits all protocols. However, to me that’s always been unrealistic and unfair as none of us has perfect health all the time. So I wanted to break down barriers for anyone who had a so called complication, whether it’s the particular needs you have during pregnancy or during a time of serious illness like cancer.

Where did the name come from?

Safe Hands began with our journey into trying to make spa experiences more accessible for anyone with cancer. That began back in 2012 when we launched our Recovery Retreats in response to an experience we had when a customer arrived on their spa break and was turned away having ticked the ‘cancer box’ on their consultation form. Since then we have looked at the wider need for empowerment and personalisation in the spa industry, through facilities information and updated therapist training. That lead us to think more about disabilities and other health challenges or individual needs. While it’s an ongoing process, the point of it all is to make sure spa goers know that they are being treated in a way that’s safe as well as providing the optimum level of care for their needs at any given time. It’s also about making sure that therapists feel safe and confident in the experiences they are providing. Ultimately, it’s about being in safe hands and we have started with Safe Hands for Cancer.

Why has creating spa experience for cancer patients been important to you?

This has been such a massive part of our work at Spabreaks.com for so long. I was aware of the problem from before I started the company, but when that first client in 2012 was turned away and contacted me in floods of tears I was horrified that we had unwittingly contributed to a time in her life that was already so hard. I just couldn’t let it continue - it felt like it flew in the face of everything that spas are about. Fortunately, I was not alone, and I have worked alongside other amazing people in the industry to bring about change including the amazing Susan Harmsworth, Jennifer Young and Amanda Winwood. We have all been doing our bit and now it’s really coming together to bring about cohesive change. Sadly, in the last few years, we also lost a member of our team to cancer, shortly before his 40th birthday, and of course lots of member of the team have lost family members to cancer over the years as well. I know the value of the short term relief that a spa experience can bring to someone and their loved ones going through such a horrid experience and I want to make sure there are as few barriers as possible to accessing that.

What have the challenges been?

Historically, the biggest issues have been a lack of information, a lack of adequate and accredited therapist training and a lack of support from other parties such as insurers. There has been a lot of misinformation over the years about the impact of massage on cancer - for example that it can spread cancer around the body, which is fundamentally untrue. Then there has not been the training available to adapt treatments, find appropriate products for use during cancer treatments, and insurers have been reluctant to insure therapists to offer therapies to cancer patients. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of some incredible people, that is changing and now it’s about putting those trained therapists in touch with the market, which is hopefully where Spabreaks.com can help.

What’s different about Safe Hands for Cancer compared to previous initiatives like Recovery Retreats?

Recovery Retreats were groundbreaking for their time. They were spa breaks where experiences were specifically designed for anyone with or recovering from cancer. Treatments were safe, products were safe and the focus was on discretion and what you could do rather than what you couldn’t. However, it did mean there was a limited amount of choice and you had to book a particular experience if you had cancer. What we have been working on is providing greater flexibility, so that therapists are able to adapt treatments more often than not, in order to make them suitable for all stages of cancer treatment. That means you can book the same spa experience as a friend without cancer, and it makes the process of choosing a spa experience and arriving and enjoying your day that much easier.

Where do you want to take it next?

The next step for Safe Hands is to look at developing it for other areas of health or health challenges that have specific requirements. The ultimate goal is to make sure that anyone and everyone can book a spa break easily and know that the experience they will get is one that’s safe for them, but that also focuses on optimising the spa experience for their needs rather than cutting things out in order to meet them.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SAFE HANDS

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