A guide to finding a doctor, specialist or dentist in Belgium, detailing how to register, make appointments, and claim reimbursements through insurance.
Belgian doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, work in the public and private sectors. Some doctors in Belgium operate from private practices or are attached to clinics and hospitals. In either case, you generally have to pay fees for both public and private treatments upfront, but you will be reimbursed in full or part through your state health insurance in Belgium or private health insurance.
Reimbursements can also be partly claimed for some treatments undertaken by dentists in Belgium, although most dentists in Belgium work in private practices.
This guide provided by health insurance company Partena explains the process of visiting and finding doctors in Belgium, including doctors in Brussels and English-speaking Belgian doctors, as well as the requirements to see a specialist in Belgium.
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Accessing doctors in Belgium
To access the Belgian healthcare system and receive reimbursements for visiting the doctor in Belgium or medical treatments, you must first be registered with Belgian social security and a state health insurance scheme. Read how to apply in Expatica’s guide to social security in Belgium and Belgian health insurance.
Insurance coverage for medical treatment in Belgium
There are many health insurers in Belgium. Some of the largest companies providing coverage to expats for treatment in Belgium include:
Registering with a doctor in Belgium
Once registered with the Belgian healthcare system, you are free to choose your own general practitioner in Belgium or family doctor (médecin / huisarts), or even see different Belgian doctors at the same time. The state mutuelle/ziekenfonds system (see our guide to healthcare in Belgium for information) allows you to register or consult with the medic of your choice, so long as they are registered with one of Belgium’s state insurance companies. Your insurance will sometimes cover an initial appointment for you to assess whether you feel comfortable with your chosen Belgian doctor.
You can nominate a main doctor in Belgium to hold a central record of all your medical records (the GMD, or Dossier Médical Global/Het Globaal Medisch Dossier). Registration with one Belgian doctor is not obligatory but encouraged as centalised data can reduce unnecessary examinations; in exchange for a GMD registration fee (which is reimbursed), you are entitled to claim higher reimbursements for certain treatments.
For contact details of local medical professionals or general information or support, you can also contact the 24-hour Community Help Service helpline on +32 (0)2 648 4014 (available in English, French, Flemish, German and Spanish).
Doctors and general practitioners in Brussels
EU statistics show that there are around 300 doctors in Belgium (general practitioners) per 100,000 inhabitants, while reports record more than 5,000 foreign doctors, medical specialists and medical students registered in Belgium.
Generally speaking, there is a better choice of general practitioners in Brussels than in smaller towns, and it is typically easier to find specialist doctors in Brussels. You will also find a higher concentration of English-speaking doctors in Brussels, although many doctors in Belgium speak a decent level of English.
English-speaking doctors in Brussels
While English-speaking doctors in Brussels are not hard to find, Doctoranytime provides an online tool that lists general practioners and specialists by the languages they speak, making it easier for expatriates to find doctors in Brussels speaking a number of foreign languages.
The US Embassy also keeps a list of English-speaking doctors in Brussels and around Belgium. See the list here.
Doctors’ appointments in Belgium
Many general practitioners in Belgium work with appointment systems, although walk-in consultations (on a first-come-first-served basis) or a mixture of both can also be found. Doctors in Belgium also make house calls if you are too sick to visit the clinic.
If you require an out-of-hours doctor in Belgium, your surgery will have an answerphone with the name and number of the on-call doctor.
Belgian doctors often work alone without any administrative staff, so don’t be surprised if they take a phone call during your consultation.
If you are having a baby in Belgium, visiting your doctor is also the first step to kick-starting the process.
Fees for doctors in Belgium
Most Belgian doctors work within the health insurance scheme (conventionné/geconventioneerd), which means they have standardised prices for consultations and treatments. Some doctors combine this with private work or work entirely in the private sector, in which case you may be charged more or be expected to pay a larger percentage of the costs yourself, as the reimbursement level is the same.
Prices should be on display in the surgery, hence giving you an idea whether your chosen Belgian doctor adheres to the standard federal fees (conventionné/geconventioneerd). If your doctor operates in both the public and private sector, make sure it’s clear which services you want. Fees may vary according to whether the appointment is in the surgery, in your own home, in the evening or at weekends.
Payment and refunds for GPs in Belgium
You usually pay doctors in Belgium upfront in full, and often by cash. They will give you a receipt/green treatment certificate outlining the treatment and cost to send to your insurer for a refund. This is usually up to 75 percent although it depends on the care, the provider and your personal circumstances.
Homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic treatments are also reimbursable as long as the practitioner is a qualified doctor.
Going to see a Belgian medical specialist
Your general practitioner can advise you on specialists and clinics but you do not have to have an official referral from a general practitioner to see a specialist in Belgium. However, if you see a specialist without a referral your costs may not be reimbursed or you could be reimbursed at a much lower rate.
Doctor’s prescriptions in Belgium
You should take doctors’ prescriptions to a pharmacy (pharmacie or apotheek) – look for a green neon cross outside. You have to pay when you collect your medicine(s) from the pharmacy, minus the set percentage payable by the insurer (deducted at the point of payment). Some medications are reimbursed fully while others only up to 20 percent. Read more in Expatica’s guide to healthcare in Belgium.
Finding a dentist in Belgium
Dentists in Belgium are called dentistes/tandartsen. You are free to choose your own dentist but most are private so check they are approved with your health insurer first. They work to an agreed fee scale for basic treatment and some accept part payment on health insurance. Major dental work, such as crowns or bridges, will need prior approval from the insurer. You pay the dentist yourself and then send the receipt/green treatment certificate to the insurer for reimbursement. You have to visit the dentist at least once a year to qualify for reimbursement from your health insurance scheme. Read more on the Belgian dental system, costs, standards and how to find dentists in Brussels and around Belgium.
In an emergency
Call the pan-European emergency number 112 (or 114 hearing assisted), free of charge from any phone, for any life-threatening situation. An ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital but you will have to pay for this service.
- Medical service – 100
- Emergency doctor – 1307
- On-call pharmacy – 09 001 0500 / 07 066 0160 (fees apply).
Save this complete list of emergency numbers in Belgium.
Useful phrases (French / Dutch)
- I need an ambulance – J’ai besoin d’une ambulance / Ik heb een ziekenwagen nodig.
- I need a doctor – Il me faut un médécin / Ik heb een doctor nodig.
- Heart attack – crise cardiaque / Hartaanval.
- Stroke – Un accident vasculaire cérébral / Beroerte.
- Accident – Accident / Ongeluk.
- Emergency – Urgence / Spoedgeval.