Since 1976, the Ministry of Health started its five-year health development plans, in order to achieve its mission and carry out its responsibilities for social and economic development. Health development plans had significant impact on health services and health status. Such development reflects the government commitment towards health services and health care since the blessed renaissance.
The first phase of the health planning in Sultanate of Oman extended from 1976 to 1990, in which three 5-year plans were implemented. These plans were concerned with building health services infrastructure as prior to the blessed renaissance there were only few health institutions that were not enough to face the prevailing unsatisfactory health status.
The second phase of planning started in 1991 and included 3 five-year health plans (the fourth, fifth and sixth), and was completed by 2005. This phase was characterized by several main directions formulated after comprehensive review of the health system in 1990. Among other directives "Decentralization of health services" was implemented through the establishment of directorates general of health services for 10 health governorates, at that time, with delegation of financial and administrative authorities. In 1993 local directorates at Wilayat level were established followed by hospital autonomy in the year of 2000.
The preparation of plans of the second phase followed "the managerial process for national health development". These plans included different programs each directed to one or more health priority or health problem. The general framework of the 4th, 5th and 6th plans was prepared at the central level. The 5th and 6th plans included 10 detailed governorateal plans while the 6th plan included, in addition, 19 Wilayat plans, in line with the decentralization policy of Ministry of Health.
The second phase plans of Ministry of Health emphasized qualitative development besides the quantitative and geographical expansion of health services. The decentralization policy in health services helped in empowerment of the administrative machinery and promoted the planning process at the local level. This has resulted in a tremendous increase in health services distributed over the Sultanate. Several hospitals were established in all governorates in order to provide specialty services mainly secondary care and limited tertiary care. Human resources development was emphasized through the establishment of training health institutes to qualify staff in the field of nursing, medical laboratories, radiography, assistant dentists, assistant pharmacists and health inspectors and other paramedical fields.
The third phase of health plans includes the 7th and 8th Five-Year Health Development Plans. These plans were based on health visions. Goals, general objectives and strategies were developed at the national level. Plans had also laid down expected results using evidence-based-management philosophy. These had constituted what was called "National Strategic Plan". Detailed plans, "Governorateal Operational Plans", were developed based on the strategic plan to be implemented by the concerned directorates at the governorateal or central levels. These plans include the targets, the operational activities, the needed resources and also the indicators for monitoring and evaluation and the timetable for implementation. Supportive plans at Wilayat level were also designed by the "Wilayat health committees" to support the governorateal operational plans. These "Local Supportive Plans" are in the form of short-term health projects planned for one year, and depend on community participation and cooperation between the related sectors.