Health care in the Netherlands - Part 1

Wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to be sick? Yet, the anthroposophists would not necessarily agree with that; they say that every illness is caused by an imbalance between your body, soul and spirit which, after asking yourself why this is, you take the time to restore and, in the process, learn from and become stronger.

It is an interesting thought - but I think we would all still prefer not to have to go through this - particularly when away from home. Yet, as we have yet to find a way to protect ourselves against every disease, we offer you a short guide on how to find help on your road to recovery.

Scheduling a visit to the GP

When you first decide that you are not going to be able to combat your ailment with aspirin and some bed rest, you call your general practitioner (GP) - to make an appointment. Some GPs have walk-in consultation hours, which are usually early in the morning and do not require a prior appointment.

You simply go to the GP’s office, sit down in the waiting room with the other patients, and await your turn. If you have to make an appointment to see your GP, this will usually be for the same or the next day. If you are unable to go to the GP, he will make a house call; either after hours or during specifically allotted hours in his schedule.

If your GP is out

If your GP is away on vacation or for the evening, he will leave a taped message in Dutch giving you the number of an on-duty doctor.


The taped message might also give you the number of the emergency line, the doktersdienst. The actual name of the doktersdienst depends on where you live, as does the telephone number.

Once you dial this number, they will ask what your problem is and where you live, after which they will give you the telephone number of a doctor on duty near you, or have a doctor call you.

 Regionale Huisartsenpost

Another alternative is the so-called Regionale Huisartsenpost. Often, (most of) the GPs in a particular regional area have joined forces to cover the evenings, nights and weekends. To consult a doctor outside of office hours, all you need to do is call one central number.

The phone will be answered by a doctor’s assistant or GP, and together you can determine whether you need to see a doctor. In that case, you can visit the Huisartsenpost or, if this is not possible, a doctor will visit you.

Finding a GP

If you want to find a GP- and you have not found one via the company HR department or your personal or professional network - you can go to your gemeentehuis, or city / town hall.

There you can ask for a gemeentegids (a booklet issued by your municipality containing information on just about everything relevant to the town or city you live in, such as doctors, sports schools, lawyers, day care, churches, etc.), which will have a list of all the local GPs.

Alternatively, you can check the Yellow Pages of your phone book under Artsen - huisartsen.

Some GPs have more patients than they can handle and find themselves forced to turn down new patients, so do not take it personally if you are turned down by one.

Once you have settled on a GP, ask him if you can meet to discuss your needs and expectations and to establish compatibility - especially as you are from abroad and might have different expectations.

Simple questions & refills: telefonische spreekuur

For simple questions, or to request a refill for your prescription, most doctors have a telefonische spreekuur, whereby you can call in and speak to the doctor (or his assistant, who has followed special training) with your question or request.

Arranging a specialist

If you want to see a specialist, you will have to visit your GP first. If he is of the opinion that indeed you should (and do not worry, if you insist, he will refer you to one) he will write you a referral notice (containing, among others, a history of your ailment).

If you have a preference as to who you wish to see, this is the moment to say so, as he can then give you the correct telephone number.

The referral notice is also very important for insurance purposes, as your insurance company will not cover your expenses without this notice! Often, hospitals keep your referral notice and forward a copy to the insurer along with the bill they submit on your behalf.

If, however, you declare your own expenses with the insurer (either after paying them yourself, or along with a request for your insurer to pay the bill), then you will have to send (a copy of) the referral notice yourself.

This is the first part of the "Health Care: You are in Good Hands" article written by Stephanie Dijkstra, editor-in-chief of The XPat Journal. Have a look at the current issue or subscribe here.

Next in the series
 Health care in the Netherlands - Part 2
 Health care in the Netherlands - Part 3

Stephanie Dijkstra


Stephanie Dijkstra

Stephanie Dijkstra is a Third Culture Kid in every possible way. Raised in four countries by Dutch/American parents, both of whom also grew up in several countries, the world is...

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