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Healthcare in the Netherlands

Healthcare in the Netherlands ranks amongst the best in the world, giving people access to the most advanced treatments and preventative care. Some things, however, may be arranged in a different way than you are used to.

The biggest difference will be the central role of the general Practitioner (GP), in dutch called the huisarts.

Currently, many GPs are no longer accepting patients. It is advisable to approach several GPs. If you are unable to register, a digital GP is an alternative.

Your GP is the key to the Dutch world of medicine. The GP treats patients for basic problems and can answer most of your general health questions. (S)he will also perform, for example, standard gynecological or pediatric examinations. Your GP will also serve as your link to most other services, such as hospitalization, specialists, home nursing midwifery and physiotherapy. If you call the GP’s office to make an appointment, the GP’s assistant, will ask questions to determine the urgency of your situation. The GP’s assistant is a professional and has an obligation of secrecy. Asking questions is done only to have the patient and the doctor better prepared, to suggest alternatives, like a consultation by phone or video, or in some cases, to check if more immediate action is required. If your GP cannot diagnose or treat a problem (s)he will refer you to a specialist. Your GP will usually provide you a letter of referral to be given to the specialist, whom you in turn will call for an appointment. You can however, visit other primary care providers, such as a midwife, physiotherapist or dentist without a referral from your GP.

Most medicines require a prescription from your GP after a personal consultation, since they can be potentially harmful. However, after a consultation, it is possible you will receive a diagnosis but no medication. Dutch physicians believe it is often best to let an illness run its course without expensive and potentially dangerous tests and medication.

If you call your doctor’s practice after regular opening hours the answering machine will tell you how to reach the doctor on duty in your area. Pharmacies also have this procedure during off hours. In many cases there is a central office (Centrale Huisartsen Post) from where doctors (in turn) operate during off hours. These after hour services can only be used in case of an urgent medical situation that cannot wait until regular office hours.In case of a life threatening emergency, always call 112!


Thuisarts.nl is an independent website for health information, developed and maintained by the Dutch College of GPs

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Note: You are obliged to be health insured in the Netherlands