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The latest update on TpoT: changing the spa industry for cancer sufferers

Michelle Hammond, Founder of the Spa Business School talks about TpoT , the not for profit organisation that she and other industry leaders including are pioneering to change the spa industry for all cancer sufferers in the UK…

What’s the reaction been so far to TpoT?

Quite simply overwhelming! from presenting the research we carried out at last year’s Spa Life to now, we have been blessed with an abundance of beautiful and brilliant people that have stepped forward and said ‘how can we help? What can we do? and count me in’.

We now have an active board of inspiring individuals, some of whom have been working tirelessly in this sector for decades, pulling together and collaborating with open hearts and minds to bring this change about.

What initially, at the conception of TpoT, might have seemed like a nice idea, a dream, now very much feels like an absolutely possible and realistic achievement, and I think the team would all agree - nothing will stop us now!

What is the big thing that therapists are worried about?

Most therapists get into this sector and stay in it because they want to help people look and/or feel better. Understandably then, after a strong seed of ’no go’ is planted at college level training regarding treating anyone with cancer, therapists are worried that they might hurt someone, cause harm or make them worse. This fear is primarily focused around any form of massage and there is still a systemic belief and fear (only in our industry) that massage could, does or might ‘spread’ cancer.

Now of course we know that there is absolutely no evidence of this ever having happened. Quite the contrary, there is so much evidence, recommendation and demonstration of just how important and integral the power of touch is when we’re unwell. Let alone the many decades of benefits documented for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being of individuals living with cancer from diagnosis, through to a hopeful remission or even end of life focused complementary therapies.

It is so interesting to me that over the decades the NHS, cancer hospices, trusts and charities have always embraced complementary therapies as an important part of the overall treatment plan for those living with cancer at all stages of their journey and even extend the importance and recommendations to their families and carers. However, in the wellness industry, the industry that normally has to fight to get the benefits and effects of its treatments and therapies recognised as therapeutic, we have shunned and counter-intuitively rejected the fundamentals of what our sector has been built on - inclusiveness and helping people look good and feel better - irrelevant to who they are and what they present with.

What’s the biggest challenge you are facing?

There is no doubt that we have set ourselves a mammoth challenge by wanting to eradicate the challenges throughout all UK spas and salons by the end of 2018.Add to that our ambition to ensure all this entry level learning and understanding is made available for free and accessible to and for all. However, if we truly collaborate across all sectors - sharing ideas, insights and opportunities we can and will make this happen. So if you want to play your part…make a PLEDGE today - donate time, services, facilities, expertise, cash, goods and opportunities - everything counts!

How are you implementing change?

We have five key strategies all of which are centered around educating, empowering and connecting people at every touch point. Primarily these include:

1.The growth and development of the TpoT website as a central resource and hub.

2.The development of a collaborative Train The Trainer programme, which kicks off in January at Champneys Tring, to capitalise on the wealth of leading spa and beauty trainers in the UK who want to get involved and give back.

3.The simplification and standardisation of a collaborative one day general awareness and a practitioner level workshop that brings all the latest knowledge together and focuses hard on dissipating the fear, debunking the myths and giving individuals some preliminary tools and techniques that enable them to take action immediately and to stop turning people away right now without having to self finance or source funding for more advanced training.

4.The TpoT tea parties, which will focus on building awareness at local and community level and promote ‘wellness to and for all’. These will be an opportunity for our spa and salon sites throughout the UK to get involved, help bring people together in their communities and help us fundraise. All our fundraising will be primarily focused on going back into and supporting our fabulous NHS and the complementary therapy divisions within them.

5.The PLEDGE programme to give EVERYONE in industry, and outside of it, an opportunity to be a part of this change - not dependant solely on cash donations - but on the belief that everyone has something they could do or give to enable us to make this change for real.

What’s the biggest worry that clients have?

Actually our research demonstrated that clients are not afraid of presenting to a spa or salon when at diagnosis stage or in active treatment. They are often told of the benefits of complementary therapies early on in their clinical treatment and actually most NHS hospitals have a designated department or team on site to support the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals from diagnosis onwards.

That is what makes it even more frustrating that over 97% (as of 2013/14 Research) of UK spas and salons were turning people away unless in remission and accompanied by a doctor’s note. Because the medical profession endorse and initiate many integrative complementary therapies and are leaving us as an industry trailing massively behind.

We also know that over 60% of those clients that said they have been turned away for having cancer have since gone back or have said they would go back on subsequent visits and lie about it next time to ensure they were not rejected or refused treatment. That’s scary. This is where everyone should be worried, because then there is real risk and it of course adds stress to clients living with cancer, that they just don’t need.

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