The body has turned to Athena Medical PR to work with its 'implementation' department, whose 13 staff have the task of ensuring that NICE guidelines are acted upon locally.
NICE's move follows criticism in an Audit Commission study last September that identified weaknesses in the implementation of clinical guidelines, particularly for the treatment of heart failure and diabetes.
It said, for example, that NICE's 'cost-templates' – one of various tools to help managers follow its guidance – are not always used locally, and that awareness of them needed to improve.
Athena is helping to organise focus groups and interviews with stakeholders such as Primary Care Trust managers.
Later this year the agency will handle a 'proactive' campaign to promote the work of the implementation team. Athena won a competitive pitch to secure the brief and has not previously worked for NICE.
Just last month NICE brought in 90Ten Healthcare on a similar remit, advising on how it could make its 'Quick Reference Guides' more easily digestible for frontline staff such as GPs.