It preoccupied the NHS's 1 million staff for years on end. It provoked heated debate among the public - and their implacable suspicion - on a scale rivalled only by the poll tax. Now it's consigned to the dustbin of history it appears not to have had much impact on healthcare at all, despite the upheavals it wrought. In fact, it's not even clear whether it really existed.

The internal market is a remarkable monument to the folly of human endeavour - or more particularly, of politicians in search of ready solutions who are seduced by academic theory which conveniently happens to fit prevailing ideology. Will we ever see its like again? You bet. When the present reforms reach their sell-by date, odds are on one think-tank or another dreaming up the internal market all over again.