Going to a doctor in the Netherlands? Here’s the ultimate guide

Feeling a bit under the weather lately? Going to a doctor in the Netherlands can be a tricky business. If you are just as clueless as we were once — fear not.

There are some things to keep in mind during your first visit to the doctor in the Netherlands.

Going to the doctor in the Netherlands: What is a huisarts?

Dutch can be a complicated language: even though the word huisarts might sound like some artwork you have back at your house, that’s hardly the case.

woman-at-her-Dutch-GP-talking-about-abortion
A general practitioner will advise you on the type of help you may need. Image: Pexels

Your General Practitioners (GP’s) are called huisarts here.

It is always better to register with a GP right away because it might be hard to get a medical appointment without having one. And who wants that? Better safe than sorry.

Agreed? Good. Then read on to learn all about it: from scheduling an appointment to seeing a specialist!

Is this an emergency?

Regardless of your situation, if you’ve had an accident or see someone who needs urgent help, you should call the emergency number 112 as quickly as possible.

It is free of charge. State your name, tell them where you are and what is going on. Then, the emergency services will decide whether to send an ambulance or not.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #104: Be prescribed only paracetamol by every Dutch doctor

Where to go?

Now that you know what a huisarts is and that you need to one to make a doctor’s appointment, let’s get things going: How to find one and where to go?

The Dutch have made it fairly easy to navigate how to get to your local doctor. Simply go to the Ik zoek een huisarts website and enter your postcode. God bless the Internet. 🙌

The website is only available in Dutch, so, unfortunately, you’ll have to rely on your Google Translate extension for it!

If you prefer things to be simpler, a Google search with the city you live in and the word ‘huisarts‘ may also work.

Making an appointment with a doctor in the Netherlands

You can make an appointment by calling your huisarts office directly. If you prefer to go the digital way, most offices also have their own websites where you can pick and choose an appointment timeslot.

As an alternative, you can see when doctors have their consultation hour (spreekuur) where you can drop by without any appointments.

Person-sitting-on-their-bed-working-on-a-laptop-in-the-moring
Make an appointment with the doctor from the comfort of your own bed. Image: Pexels

If you have a rather urgent problem, then these appointments are the way to go. But, what do you do if you just have a few simple questions? Then you can give your GP a call for a consultation over the phone. Nice!

Your chosen huisarts might want to have a consultation appointment with you to go over your medical history.

Not only is it good for you to get to know your GP, but also a good moment to ask about some of the questions you might have about the whole health care system in the Netherlands.

Doctors in the Netherlands and the antibiotics: What’s going on?

One of the things to keep in mind is that Dutch doctors might react differently to your health problems than the way you are used to.

Antibiotic resistance is taken very seriously in the Netherlands and seen as one of the biggest threats to our modern-day life.

So if you are coming from a country where antibiotics are seen as a magic pill that solves your every problem, you might get surprised when your huisarts shrugs and tell you to take a Paracetamol and get some rest.

Breathe in and breathe out, they might have a point there. Dutch doctors, therefore, only prescribe antibiotics if they diagnose you with a bacterial infection and not a viral one (such as the flu).

When it’s time to see a medical specialist

Okay, now let’s get to the real deal. What happens if you need to see a specialist? You will first need a referral from your huisarts. Your GP then decides whether to send you to see a specialist.

BUT, keep in mind that you can choose to see a specialist at any time. GP’s are there to help you but if you feel like you would like to see someone else, you always can.

Dutch-doctor-and-senior-patient-sitting-across-each-other-in-pratice-during-consultation
Your GP is always there to help you. Image: Depositphotos

Once you have the referral papers, it’s always better to ask your insurance company if they wish to see the referral.

It’s mostly handled between the hospital and your insurance provider but it never hurts to be sure (if you wish the costs to be covered, that is).

After the referral from your huisarts, you can now go ahead and make an appointment with the specialist. If you have a specific specialist in mind already, you can also ask for your referral to be made directly to that person, so all works out well!

What happens if you go to a doctor in the Netherlands and don’t have health insurance (yet)?

If you have just recently applied for health insurance and you haven’t got an insurance number yet, you can always visit your huisarts (happy news!). In the Netherlands, a GP cannot refuse to give you the care you need.

Do keep in mind that being without insurance, you would have to pay the costs yourself.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as soon as you receive your insurance number you can send the bill to your insurance company to get the money back.

How has your experience with doctors been in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018 but was updated for your reading pleasure in August 2022. 

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Ceren Spuyman
Ceren Spuyman
Born and raised in Istanbul, Ceren moved when she decided to follow her own Dutchie. Being restless by nature, she is now busy with everything Dutch by majoring in Dutch Studies at Leiden University while living in Delft. Her hobbies are petting as many cats as possible.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Although not bad at all, this article really didn’t cover the essentials about primary care in the Netherlands. The author is mistaken about let’s just say ‘how to see a medical specialist’. You may ‘wish’ to get a federal, a general practioner is the absolute gate keeper on that one. Of course you can always switch to another GP, but you cannot refer yourself. But the thing I missed the most; the ‘huisarts’ only covers office hours in his or her normal practice. A lot of goreigners and dutchies do not know the difference between the SEH (spoedeisende hulp) and the HAP (huisartsenpost) It would have been quite helpfull for a lot of people if this part of the GP’s work was explained. (correct then, that is) Just some food for thought…

  2. my smartphone auto-corrected referal to federal and I missed that one. (line 5) I cannot change it myself so instead another comment. sorry.

    • the question, I have a friend currently working in North Holland -he requires his appendix removed-the doctor wants payment upfront, is this normally? He asked about payments and was told no.

  3. worst “controlled” system in all world. If you can choose between Nederland and other country then I would choose defiantly any other country.
    Try to imagine that everything is going via “huisarts” you are not free to choose to go to see specialist without GP (huisarts) referral. If you call for appointment you will be number 10 in row waiting and when it is your turn “GP assistant” will listen to your medical problem and she will decide if you “need” to see GP or not.
    IT’S CRAZY. Remember it’s about your health and here in the Netherlands you will be completely left in cold. In hospital they even have “nurse specialist” who replaced the “internist” can you believe that??
    GP send you to a “nurse specialist” instead to a specialist! I am done with this country!!!!!!
    Medical system is completely controlled by government and they don’t allow “private clinics” to exist so if you have money in this country it’s not goin to help you because you are not free to choose medical help that you prefer! Worst system in world!!!!

    • Completely agree with your comment. As an expat this is TERRIBLE for me, people here do not care about their health at all, doctors are not teach to practice PREVENTIVE medicine, which saves lifes. It really sucks and one of the reasons I’ll leave this country asap.

      • I agree with you totally. However, if a Dutch person hears this instead of accepting it they would say: “ok bye we do not want you in this country” 😂

  4. I’ve had excellent experiences here and dreadful ones. On the whole, it seems like a pretty good system, at least compared to the US where a lot of people can’t even afford to see a doctor.

  5. I feel totally unsafe with the medical system in the Netherlands and the ignorance of GPs who they think they can treat anything.
    The visit to a specialist can take weeks and some are very bad on their diagnoses.

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