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The Dutch healthcare system: One of the best in the world?

The Dutch healthcare system: One of the best in the world?

A recent report ranking high-income countries based on the quality of their healthcare services has put the Netherlands second, behind Norway. 

The Commonwealth Fund healthcare report 

A 2021 report published by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation aimed at promoting high-quality healthcare for all, compared the performance of healthcare systems in 11 high-income countries across the globe, analysing each system against 71 performance measures across five categories: 

  • Access to care (timeliness, affordability, etc)
  • Case process (preventative care, coordinated care, etc)
  • Administrative efficiency (amount of paperwork, etc)
  • Equity (income-related disparities)
  • Healthcare outcomes

While the study concluded that no two systems were alike, there were certain features that distinguished the top-performing countries from other international healthcare systems; namely the accessibility and cost of (quality) healthcare.

The quality and cost of healthcare in the Netherlands

Time and time again, the Dutch healthcare system is found to be one of the best in the world - and this study is no different. While Norway takes the top spot, the Netherlands has achieved a very respectable second place, ranking above the likes of Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. 

The Netherlands performed above average in four out of the five categories, with the national healthcare’s administrative efficiency ranking letting the country down a little. It did take the top spot when it came to access to care, and also performed well in the care process category.

The Commonwealth Fund found that residents of the Netherlands were much less likely to report that their health insurance denied payment of a claim or paid less than expected, and were less likely to report issues with paying medical bills. The report also highlighted the Netherlands’ comparatively good mental healthcare provisions, and the accessibility of medical assistance.

Ranking healthcare in high-income countries

According to the report, the 11 high-income countries studied rank as follows:

  1. Norway
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Australia
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. New Zealand
  7. Sweden
  8. France
  9. Switzerland
  10. Canada
  11. United States

For more information about the study, visit the Commonwealth Fund website.

Victoria Séveno

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Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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SonuDavidsonC.B2 11:29 | 24 August 2021

I do not know how they came to this conclusion. It's quite strange that the doctor always prescribes paracetamol for everything. If I want to get a full-body check-up it doesn't exist. I don't know what's wrong with me until I fall sick. Perhaps the dutch health care doesn't know that "Prevention is better than cure". People in the Netherlands pay a lot towards health care Insurance and the least we expect is that we know what is going on inside our body. Kids health care is the worst! When we take our kids to huisarts when they are in pain, all they say is that they will go away. NO IT IS NOT OKAY AND IT WON'T GO AWAY.

amritaghosh2 00:37 | 25 August 2021

Every time when we call or write to GP she takes more than a week to respond back.If we ask to refer us to OLVG for some specialized treatment she experiments herself and messes around. We have suffered a lot and being an Expat do not know where to complaint.She do not accept any diagnosis done by renowned hospital of India for existing health issue and start experimenting without giving any resolution.I am surprised by this kind of service in this first world country.Hospital doctors are much better and co operating as we have experienced in Amsterdam. Working with GP is just to and fro and unnecessary wastage of time.They deducts money for maintaining file but no resolution ever given for the disease.We have to always keep a set of emergency medicine at home from India as we know our doctor never turns back on time.

NikFam2 14:37 | 25 August 2021

Most likely the worst healthcare system in the world! Simply put, serious health problems are identified only when they manifest with symptoms which is usually too late to treat. It is unbelievable how this system is accepted by the society. It is a common secret among the locals that the healthcare system is problematic

ulisse85 16:44 | 25 August 2021

Netherlands has many positive things but for sure not the healthcare system. You are enslaved to your family doctor(s) that they do little care about your needs. Without their prescriptions you cannot do any visit to specialists. This can last for month before convincing your huisarts that you really have important issues, and when he grants you his ok, you have to wait several weeks for the specilists to have an appointment. Italy and Spain are very above NL and UK in my personal experience. If you are concerned about your health, in the netherlands you will get or paracetamol or a burnout letter. Thats it. Save yourself if you can, and book any specialised visits short term elsewhere.

KirillSpiridonov 10:45 | 26 August 2021

This must be some kind of a joke, you can’t be serious calling Dutch healthcare one of the best. I love a lot about NL, but it’s healthcare is one of the major faults.

DemetrioAlves2 10:50 | 26 August 2021

I do agree with most of comments I read here. Can't say it's the worst, but for a very rich country and an expensive health insurance.. it's not good at all. As mentioned, to get them to actually look at what you might have you need to come to the doctor saying you are in a worst shape than you actually are, otherwise they will only prescribe you a paracetamol or have a "nice conversation". This rank is an absolute joke and you can tell it by having US health care system showing up in the list, when most americans pray not to get sick as they most likely are not gonna get any treatment. I think IamExpat.nl should also provide an article based on the perspective of the health care system users, as well.

GustavodelGerbo... 21:58 | 27 August 2021

I created an account just to put a comment on this article. No. The Dutch health system is not the second. It is one of the worst i have seen, heard and experienced. People in the Netherlands live with this because they do not know better. They think this is how it works. But no, medicine is 80 years ahead of this in every other single country in the planet. Even coming from a 3rd world country... Omg this is so so so bad i cannot even begin to describe it. Yes, they can stop you from dying, but whatever it you in that position, they don't care. The knowledge of GP s is like primary school. They don't know the difference between a virus and a bacteria. They will not prescribe anything ever unless you are about to die. Take a bunch of medicine with you and go to your doctor when you are back in your country for regular checks.

GeorgeTzeremes2 22:36 | 27 August 2021

Made an account just to comment on the article and the Dutch health system. I lived in 5 countries so far, NL practically has no health system. For every serious case the specialist will divert you to a Belgian or German hospital. In reality it is like the medical leeches of Europe benefiting from neighboring countries with good medical systems. Netherlands have many good things but not their medical system.

Sarah Chebaro 00:08 | 2 September 2021

What a joke of an article. I have never feared doctors like the ones here in the Netherlands.

TedUncle2 22:46 | 13 September 2021

I am surprised by this report, my experience with the Dutch health system does not reflect that.

Ahmad Nasrallah 09:01 | 22 October 2021

I can't believe that there is a single person that speaks in a good way about the healthcare in Holland. I know this country is full of wonderful things, I visit Amsterdam every single year and I have a lot of amazing memories, but regarding the healthcare they should really shame themselves. If you are sick in Holland, I mean severely sick and in pain, you have to wait more than 2 weeks to get an appointment from the doctor. How are the people not speaking out about this crisis? please fix this issue because in many poor countries there are better healthcare systems and with a cheaper price :) btw the signup to this website is way worse than the healthcare system of Holland.

GarethLythgoe2 11:28 | 4 January 2022

Had to sign up to weigh in! I find some of the comments here totally alien to what I have experienced with the Dutch healthcare system and would confidently say that second doesn't surprise me. I'm guessing some that moan are used to being able to just pick up anti biotics/powerful pain meds over the counter, no questions asked (people that is why we have an upcoming issue against bacteria resisting all but our strongest anti b's) My son was born here and the standard of care was fantastic (Arnhem Hospital), especially the nurse that visits you at home to help settle you in with your newborn. I've always had appointments straight away when calling. I developed a hernia, I was directed to a Dr for a screening, they sent me down the hall for a CAT scan and in 10 mins he was able to look at the issue and determine whether surgery was needed and to what extent, I was amazed at such service, I spent a few days in hospital, was treated extremely well and never doubted the standard of care. I'm from the UK and you would have had to wait for another appointment for the CAT scan, let alone a waiting list for the surgery. If you have issues with any of the doctors at your surgery, you can easily request someone else. You can have meds delivered to you rapidly. Honestly, I've been nothing but impressed with the Healthcare system.

PepeLo2 09:50 | 3 March 2022

Signed up to comment. My experience is not that positive. I have lived in a few countries and I am not that impressed with the Dutch system. People are allowed to not feel well for a long time because there is the hope that the body will heal itself. I understand the idea but people also need to function and can not spend a month or longer in pain and feeling unwell. The function of the GP, in the Netherlands, (it appears) is to send you back home repeatedly and to stop you from seeing a specialist in the hope that you will heal. The GP appears not to be interested in digging deep to find the cause of your issue and acts more as a gatekeeper. I like the fact that antibiotics are not prescribed easily; that's a positive. I do not like the fact that medicine here is not about the quality of life but (it appears) about saving lives. I am considering getting an health insurance in another country so that I can actually see specialists when I need to. I have had very bad experiences with myself and my son that right after being seen by the GP (he said my son was ok enough) ended up in an emergency room (at night) with a double ear infection and on antibiotics. The emergency room doctor said "You did well bringing him here as soon as you did". The GP saw my son 2 or 3 times and kept sending us back home. How are we supposed to understand this approach ?

elenasantidrian2 11:16 | 10 April 2022

Netherlands is a great country, but its health system could improve enormusly, in particular the doctor patient interaction: many doctors have no empathy at all with their patients. With something quite obvious, like a fracture, everything is fine, but if you have something serious and not so obvious, they will always think you exagerating without even doing differential diagnosis or tests. Its very frustrating and annoying to feel ignored and even fooled when you are vulnerable, and i dont know if it that has to do with the culture or with economics. Doctors are doing a service to society, it takes a lot of money from each individual, and its not acceptable that being fooled is what you get back. I never had a bad experience myself, but never had serious issues neither. But i know tens of stories from close friends. It can take three months to diagnose you leukemia in the netherlands even with visible sympthoma like swollen and pain-free lymphnodes (oviosuly not an infection). By the time you get your diagnosis by your dutch doctors you will already be under treatment in your own country, where you did not pay an insurance or taxes neither asked you for any papers to start your treatment. I have seen doctors treating quite visible lymphnode metastastis with antibiotics, and after two weeks of no clinical response, prescribing the same antibiotic again at higher dose. Whaaaat? You can use ultrasound to discriminate an infection from a neoplasia or at least get a hint, and then do further analysis. Sometimes you will find a nice doctor that is willing and happy to do its job and help you finding back your health, but other times if its somethig serious and you are veing ignored you will nd up going to your country of origin to get the proper treatment, unlesa your country of origin is the netherlands (also many dutch have very bad experiences with doctors), and sometimes the waiting is so long that if the disease is really serious and you are ignored and misdiagnosed for a long time you will die. Quite a shame.

Iraistb 11:52 | 26 April 2022

I just signed up to comment this. After many -personal and from all my close circle- horror histories with this health system specially with the GPs, I took the time to investigate if it is possible to cancel the mandatory Dutch insurance and look for other options (cheaper and better, such as travel insurances) In any case, everytime I need professional medical attention I have to go to Spain or to my country of origin. I found this in which you can apply for a conscentious objection and stop paying the mandatory insurance (from government website): https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/wetten-en-regelingen/productbeschrijvingen/vrijstelling-verzekeringsplicht-zorgverzekering