One salon owner’s frustration at insurers' blanket "no" response to treating clients with cancer

As salon owners, our landscape is forever changing – through employment laws, pensions regulations, GDPR, industry trends and more.

Many of these challenges are fairly unemotional. They involve implementing processes and setting up procedures and systems, and can be tick box exercises. But one challenge is very emotional, and that’s how we manage our clients who have been diagnosed with cancer.

We work hard to grow relationships with our clients. They share their lives with us. We become confidantes, advisors – weddings, divorce, bereavement, careers, relationships, we go through it all with clients and share ideas, support, laughter and tears with them.

We’re able to help them feel better about themselves, increase their confidence and to generally look after their wellbeing.

When a client is diagnosed with cancer, it’s life changing for them and their families. As therapists, our primary desire is to look after and care for our clients, making them look and feel great.

Why shouldn’t we be able to continue providing this service when they are diagnosed with cancer? In fact, you could argue, it’s when they need the support and nurturing the most.

What the insurers say

To operate legally, we require insurance and this is where it gets tricky. My experience with insurers is that if that cancer box on your consultation form gets ticked, you can’t proceed any further and treat the client. The generic feedback that seems most common is – the client must be five years clear until they are able to be treated again.

I understand cancer is a very complex area and I can see that for more in-depth treatments, like massage, there may be a valid contraindication, but I’ve been in scenarios where the oncologist has been willing to sign to say they're happy for a client to have beauty treatments and I still can’t get insurance cover, because they're still "in treatment".

It’s soul destroying to have that conversation with your client where you say, “I'm unable to provide that service to you anymore”. Isn’t it hard enough to be diagnosed with cancer, let alone feel further punished by not being able to be pampered any more.

For non-intrusive treatments like manicures, pedicures or waxing (things that clients will do for themselves at home), if there’s GP consent, could we not continue to treat our clients at some level, helping to continue their usual salon interactions and have that great relationship with them.

There are courses available to train in, so that you can get insurance to be able to treat cancer patients, but as an example, to get all my team "cancer qualified" in the 100 plus treatments we offer, it’s going to cost me more than £10,000.

I'd like to see a working group set up, made up of GPS, oncologists, underwriters, Cancer Research UK, therapists and salon owners. Let’s work together to help overcome this challenge faced by the beauty industry.

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