The application by Wandsworth’s GPs for Pathfinder status was approved on Wednesday.

Essentially it makes Wandsworth one of the country’s early adopters in the move towards GP commissioning; with the GPs (working as a single Wandsworth consortia) starting to shadow the Primary Care Trust from April in preparation for taking on full commissioning responsibilities from 2013.

Wandsworth is making good progress on the health reforms. I’ve often joked that the council has long-held imperialist ambitions for the NHS in Wandsworth, but there are massive benefits from closer co-ordination between the council and health service. While GPs are the best place for commissioning, since they are the ones who are closest to the patients using the services, there are lots of benefits from closer integration with the council.

Some will be fairly obvious to residents, for example those who use both council and health services and will benefit from a better joining-up between the two. Some will be less obvious and behind the scenes, like any benefits that derive from the council’s expertise in procurement.

But I think the most beneficial will be the tighter integration of proactive and reactive services. At the risk of being overly simplistic, the health service and GPs tend to be reactive: you get ill, they cure you. Whereas the council has responsibility for many services that can have a preventative element: education is the biggest factor, but you can include things like our leisure facilities or environmental health and even go as far as including the council’s role in economic development.

This is all in the future, we’ve spent a lot of time, and will spent a lot more time, working out exactly how it will all look in 2013. But congratulations are due to the GPs, because it’s now one step closer.