The Netherlands has more doctors than ever - but it's still not enough

The Netherlands has more doctors than ever - but it's still not enough

The Netherlands has more GPs and family doctors than ever, yet there are still not enough of them, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS. Since the start of 2023, approximately half of Dutch GP surgeries have implemented a freeze on taking new patients and many practices are unable to cope with the increasing demand for care.

The number of GPs in the Netherlands has increased by half in past 10 years

According to NOS, the Netherlands had around 10.000 qualified GPs in 2012, with that number having risen to approximately 15.000 GPs today. Despite this, a growing number of GPs in the country are unable to meet the needs of their patients and the increasing demand for healthcare more broadly. 

One of the main issues at hand is the declining number of doctors who own their own medical practice. In 2012, almost 78 percent of doctors were practice owners, but by 2022 that percentage had fallen to just 49.

"The time when you could run a practice together with an assistant and mainly deal with patients is over," Jettie Bont, professor of general medicine at Amsterdam UMC told NOS. "You now employ several assistants and also practice assistants…So you are now very much a manager. You negotiate with health insurers and consult with community nurses, hospitals and mental health institutions to get more complex patients who need help to the right place."

More GPs becoming self-employed makes the situation trickier

GPs who do not own their own practice are often self-employed. This makes it more difficult to meet the demand for healthcare due to self-employed doctors wanting more control and flexibility over the hours they work. 

Maastricht GP Katrien Boots told NOS about her experience: "You notice that these self-employed people want a lot of freedom to organise their own time. So the responsibility feels very heavy, on your own, while you have to provide most of the care and have all the administrative tasks. The weight you then have to carry all the time is not nice."

Despite this, many new doctors say that they would like to own their own medical practice. "Surveys show that 85 percent would like to become practice owners", Professor Bont of the UMC in Amsterdam told NOS.

Image: Photos by Tom /



Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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