The first point of contact in getting healthcare in the Netherlands is to register with a doctor (huisarts in Dutch) or general practitioner (GP).
How to find a GP in the Netherlands
It is important to register with a huisarts when you arrive in the Netherlands. If you have not registered with a GP and you then become ill, you may have difficulty finding a nearby doctor who is taking patients, as their practice may already be full.
How to find a doctor near you
To search and find a doctor near you, go to the ZorgkaartNederland website. You can also visit your Gemeentehuis (town / city hall) and ask for a gemeentegids (a booklet issued by your municipality containing information about doctors, sports groups, day care, etc.), which will have a list of all the local GPs. There is also a listing in the Yellow Pages (Telefoongids / Gouden Gids) under Artsen – Huisartsen.
Please note, you may not be able to register with the GP of your choice as they are not accepting new patients or you live too far away from the practice.
Online doctor's offices
Certain providers in the Netherlands are now offering telemedicine services, which allow you to access health professionals from the comfort of home. For example, you can find an English speaking doctor on Mobidoctor for an online consultation, 7 days a week, from 9am to 9pm (no need for any insurance).
The role of the GP in the Dutch healthcare system
In the Netherlands, the GP holds a central role when it comes to healthcare. If you have any questions regarding your physical and mental health, your GP is the first one to ask.
As well as answering any health questions you may have, a GP in the Netherlands can also perform minor surgical procedures and carry out pediatric and gynecological examinations. Generally, a GP does not provide dental treatments.
Medical training of a GP in the Netherlands
A GP in the Netherlands is a specialist in healthcare; they have received a general six-year medical education and three years of specialist training. By law, a GP is required to regularly update their skills, and they will also have to re-register every five years.
Furthermore, a GP is your link to any specialist you may require, as they are trained to determine whether you need the help of a specialist.
How to register with a GP in the Netherlands
When you have found a GP to your liking, you will need to register with said GP. Some GP practices allow you to register online. Generally, you will need the following documents when you register with a GP: valid ID, BSN and health insurance details.
Your GP may wish to have a consultation appointment with you to go over your medical history. This is a good opportunity to have any questions about healthcare in the Netherlands answered. Also, if it’s your first visit, you should also bring along your medical records you have from your home country and, if applicable, a list of medications you are using.
When do you see a GP in the Netherlands?
You can make an appointment with your GP for various reasons, such as:
- You have urgent medical needs (call 112 in the case of life-threatening situations)
- You have questions or you need advice regarding your health or that of your child
- For physical complaints and / or mental health issues
- For first aid and minor surgical procedures (stitches etc.)
- You need support and treatment for a chronic disease
- For preventative medicine (vaccines etc.)
How do I make an appointment with a GP?
There are various ways you can get an appointment with a GP in the Netherlands:
Making appointments with a GP by phone
You can call your GP directly to make an appointment. The GP assistant will ask you questions to assess your situation and whether you need to come in the same day or a few days later. They can often provide you with advice as well, as they are a medical professional.
You may also be able to consult the doctor over the phone in the case of simple questions. Some GPs even offer specific telephone consultation hours.
Making appointments with a GP by e-consultation
Some GP practices offer e-consultations. This means you can ask your GP questions via a secured internet connection. Please note that not all questions are suitable for an e-consultations, especially if they are urgent and if there is a physical exam necessary.
Walk-in consultation hour
Many practices have a spreekuur (walk-in consultation hour), usually early in the morning, where you can speak to your doctor without an appointment. This is usually reserved for short, simple questions and ailments.
Some GPs also make house calls if you are too ill to visit, usually after hours or during a specifically allotted time. If you want your doctor to make a home visit, let the GP assistant know. Together with the doctor, they will discuss whether it is necessary.
What do I do when my GP is not available?
It’s possible that you may not be able to reach your GP. Perhaps they are on holiday and the practice is closed. Find out what to do in a situation like this:
If your doctor is away, they will leave an answering message with the number of another doctor and possibly the number of the emergency dokterdienst. The actual doctor varies from area to area, so the service will give you the name and number of a doctor on duty near you, or have the doctor call you.
Your other option is to call your local huisartsenpost. The huisartsenpost will tell you whether you should come to the emergency huisartenpost in hospital or whether you should wait for your own doctor to return. For more see emergency numbers.
What to expect at your GP appointment?
Generally, an appointment usually takes place during office hours and lasts between 10 to 15 minutes. If you think you need more time, you can discuss this with the GP assistant when making the appointment.
Making appointments with a specialist
If you wish to see a specialist in a hospital, you will need a referral from a general practitioner. You will also need to show this referral to your insurance company if you wish the costs to be covered. Once you have a referral, you can make an appointment with the specialist directly. If you know the specialist you wish to see, you may request a referral to that person.
Government health checks
The Dutch government offers various (voluntary) free health checks as part of the population screening programmes:
Mammogram (breast cancer)
Women between the ages of 50-75 get an invitation to have a mammogram done every two years to check for breast cancer.
Cervical smear test (cervical cancer)
Women between the ages of 30-60 receive an invitation every five years to have a cervical smear test done by their GP to check for cervical cancer. It’s possible to self-test as well.
Faecal test (bowel cancer)
People between the ages of 55-75 will get an invitation to have their faeces tested for bowel cancer.
Complaints about your doctor?
Are you not satisfied with your doctor? First, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. If that fails, you can submit a complaint with the complaints officer. Find out more about health care consumer rights.