Discover everything you need to know about children’s healthcare in the Netherlands including the services and treatment on offer, costs, and more.
Parents in the Netherlands will be pleased to know that their kids will be looked after by one of the best quality healthcare systems in the world. Indeed, the Dutch healthcare system ranks second-best in Europe, so you know your little ones will be in good hands.
To help you understand more about what you and your children can expect from the Dutch system, this guide to children’s healthcare in the Netherlands covers the following topics:
- Overview of children’s healthcare in the Netherlands
- How to access healthcare for your child in the Netherlands
- Taking your child to see a pediatrician in the Netherlands
- Taking your child to see a doctor or specialist in the Netherlands
- Children’s hospitals in the Netherlands
- Dental care for children in the Netherlands
- Children’s mental healthcare in the Netherlands
- Preventative healthcare programs for children in the Netherlands
- Useful resources
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COVID-19 in the Netherlands
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. Many expats find themselves separated from family and loved ones in their home countries. As a foreigner, it is also sometimes difficult to find critical information regarding coronavirus infection rates, local measures and restrictions, and now, thankfully, vaccinations.
Overview of children’s healthcare in the Netherlands
According to a report by Utrecht University and the World Health Organization, Dutch kids are among the happiest and healthiest in Europe. The report analyzed the health and wellbeing of children in 45 countries. While there are a number of factors related to this, the level of children’s healthcare in the Netherlands is among them.
From birth up to the age of 18, children are eligible for free healthcare in the Netherlands as long as they are registered with a Dutch healthcare insurer. This is usually done under a parent’s healthcare policy at no extra cost.
Once insured, parents should register themselves and their children with a local family doctor (huisarts). These doctors treat the most common ailments and are the first point of contact for health matters in the Netherlands. They also act as gatekeepers for the healthcare system, providing referrals for specialist treatment when needed.
Local child health clinics (consultatiebureaus) also monitor children’s growth and development. School doctors continue the service once children turn four and start their education. Though not mandatory, making use of this preventative healthcare service is advised.
Each region of the Netherlands has its own Centre for Youth and Family that offers advice on raising children. When required, they can also signpost families towards support for social, psychological, or educational needs. Each region varies slightly in terms of how the youth healthcare teams operate, though they are all subject to the same national guidelines.
How to access healthcare for your child in the Netherlands
In 2006, the Health Insurance Act merged public and private healthcare in the Netherlands. Since then, health insurance has been compulsory for everyone living in the Netherlands. The country has a universal social health insurance policy, underpinned by private insurers offering mandatory coverage for all.
As a minimum, expats planning to stay long-term must take out basic health insurance (basisverzekering) within four months of arriving in the Netherlands. This includes children, although they are covered free of charge under a parent’s policy. However, some arrivals choose to take out international health insurance ahead of time, giving them coverage from the moment they arrive.
Insurers providing healthcare coverage in the Netherlands include:
If you’re unsure of which insurance product is right for you, use a comparison website such as Independer to quickly check your options.
In addition to their standard coverage, adults can take out supplementary care packages. 84% of people in the Netherlands have some form of supplementary health insurance package. These include a range of services, including dental care, physiotherapy, alternative medicine, glasses and lenses, and contraception. Referrals are not always necessary to access these services.
Children can also access the supplementary care offered under their parent’s package free of charge. However, even under a basic insurance package, children can access treatments such as physiotherapy (in Dutch) and dentistry for free. Unlike adults, children do not need to pay any deductibles or compulsory excess for treatments and healthcare. For more information on this, read our complete guide to the healthcare system in the Netherlands.
Treatment available for children in the Netherlands
Once your child has a policy in place and has received their health insurance card, you can register them with a local GP. Each time your child accesses healthcare services in the Netherlands, you will need to present your child’s health insurance card.
Generally speaking, free healthcare provisions for children in the Netherlands include (but are not limited to):
- doctors appointments
- preventative healthcare
- referrals to specialists
- surgery and hospital care
- dental care
- routine vaccinations
- prescription medicines
Accessing treatment for non-residents of the Netherlands
If you are visiting the Netherlands or only staying for a short while, you can still access healthcare for your children. However, how this is done depends on your circumstances. For example, EU citizens can access treatment using their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Non-EU citizens visiting the Netherlands will need to access treatment through a private health insurance provider.
Private healthcare for children in the Netherlands
Occasionally, expat families living in the Netherlands may not be eligible for Dutch health insurance. For example, if your stay is temporary, you are awaiting residency status or if you work/pay taxes outside the Netherlands. In these instances, it’s possible to take out a private international health insurance policy tailored for expat families.
It’s worth noting that children are not automatically covered for free under these policies and may incur their own premium.
It’s also possible to take out a private international policy in addition to a Dutch basic policy. For example, if you are obliged to have a Dutch policy, but would like to top it up with comprehensive international coverage.
With private international health insurance, Children can access a wide range of healthcare providers in the Netherlands. Healthcare services can be accessed directly (through self-referral) or via a doctor’s referral under these policies. In some cases, it is even possible to opt for treatment in neighboring countries like Belgium, should waiting times be shorter there.
Some healthcare providers can bill private insurers directly. Others may require payment upfront, leaving you to claim a reimbursement from your insurer later.
Financial support for accessing Dutch healthcare
Even the basic health insurance package in the Netherlands is fairly costly, coming in at around €110 per adult, per month in 2021. Government support (zorgtoeslag) is available for families with limited financial means. In 2021 it was possible to receive monthly zorgtoeslag contributions of up to €107 for an individual or €207 as a couple/family. The exact amount awarded will be dependent on your income.
Taking your child to see a pediatrician in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, almost all pediatricians work in hospitals. Therefore, your child will typically need a referral from their family doctor to see one. Generally speaking, family doctors treat children for common complaints. For anything more serious, they may refer children to pediatricians for further care.
Routine childhood checkups in the Netherlands
Each municipality in the Netherlands has a dedicated youth health team. These teams monitor the health, growth, and development of children up to the age of 16.
The local child health clinic (consultatiebureau) will invite your child for around 13 checkups between birth and the age of four. During these appointments, children receive the following routine checks:
- Heel prick test (a blood spot test) for newborns to check for serious congenital illnesses
- Sight and hearing tests
- Growth monitoring (height and weight)
- Speech and motor development checks
At the ages of five, 10, 14, and then 16, children will be offered further healthcare check-ups at school. Bear in mind that while healthcare professionals advise these tests to be taken, none of these checkups are mandatory in the Netherlands.
Vaccinations for children in the Netherlands
The National Immunization Program offers children free inoculations against 12 infectious diseases. These include measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and hepatitis B. Over 90% of children living in the Netherlands have been vaccinated through the program.
Child vaccinations in the Netherlands are similar to those of other European countries. However, be aware that the vaccination schedules differ slightly.
If your child began their vaccinations outside of the Netherlands, your family GP can advise how best to bring your child’s vaccinations in-line with the National Immunization Program. Children who have begun their inoculations outside the Netherlands can continue their vaccinations for free in the Netherlands. For more information, read our guide to vaccinations in the Netherlands.
Taking your child to see a doctor or specialist in the Netherlands
With the exception of emergency care, in most cases, the first port of call is your family doctor (huisarts) who acts as a gatekeeper to other medical services. With a referral from your GP, your child can usually access most specialist care free of charge.
Out of hours, it is also possible to consult a GP via your local doctor’s post (huisartsenpost). They can also refer children directly to the hospital if necessary. Contact details for huisartsenposts vary by location; to find your local service, type ‘huisartsenpost‘ followed by your city name into an internet search.
Children’s hospitals in the Netherlands
Hospitals throughout the Netherlands offer very high standards of care. There are three main types of hospitals in the Netherlands and all have dedicated children’s wards:
- Academic hospitals: usually attached to universities, these hospitals carry out medical research and offer the most advanced, specialist care.
- Teaching hospitals: also attached to universities and educational institutes, these centres provide training for nurses. They also offer specialist treatments and interns may accompany doctors during procedures.
- General Hospitals: offering standard but very good care for less specialised problems.
There are also eight specialist children’s hospitals in the Netherlands:
- Willem-Alexander Children’s Hospital, Leiden
- Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, Utrecht
- Princess Máxima Center for Perdiatric Oncology, Utrecht
- Emma Children’s Hospital (in Dutch), Amsterdam
- Beatrix Children’s Hospital, Groningen
- Amalia Children’s Hospital (in Dutch), Nijmegen
- Juliana Children’s Hospital (in Dutch), The Hague (Den Haag)
- Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam
Dental care for children in the Netherlands
Until they are 18, children in the Netherlands can access free dental care. This applies to check-ups, fillings, and also care such as fluoride treatments and even root canals.
Parents are free to choose a dental practice for their children. You will need to present your child’s health insurance card when registering. However, there will be no charge for your child’s treatment or check-ups.
Basic healthcare policies do not always cover orthodontic treatments. If your child is likely to require orthodontic treatment, it’s worth looking at which supplementary dental packages offer reimbursements for this.
Early visits to the dentist help to familiarize children with the check-up process and tend to focus on counting teeth and brushing techniques.
Depending on your situation, it may also be possible to register your child with the school dentist. This is usually a mobile practice that visits schools on a regular basis. For more information on early years education in the Netherlands, read our guide to Dutch primary schools.
Children’s mental healthcare in the Netherlands
Children suffering from mental health issues can receive specialist care from pediatric mental health services (Jeugd-GZZ – in Dutch). The Jeugd-GZZ employs psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses specialized in child psychological development and associated parenting and behavioral problems. They work closely with schools and other youth care organizations.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, the first step is to discuss this with your GP or school doctor. You can also discuss this with a healthcare professional at your local child healthcare center (consultatsiebureau). They can offer advice and provide a referral to the Jeugd-GZZ if needed.
There are a number of dedicated mental healthcare organizations offering counseling and services for children and families in English.
Preventative healthcare programs for children in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a long history of preventative healthcare for children. Indeed, the first dedicated children’s health clinic opened in The Hague (Den Haag) in 1901.
Preventative healthcare programs in the Netherlands now reach over 90% of children. However, each municipality is responsible for implementing its own preventative healthcare program. Therefore the way in which each child health team (consultatiebureau) operates can vary between areas.
The purpose of the consultatiebureau is to monitor the growth and development of children. This includes early detection of health and social problems (and risk factors), and screening for metabolic conditions and hearing in newborns. The centers also deliver the national vaccination program and provide support and advice to help parents raise healthy children.
Accessing preventative health programs in the Netherlands
Technically, consultatiebureau’s do not treat children. Instead, they refer children to primary health care practitioners for additional investigation and/or treatment when any problems are detected.
If your child is registered in the Netherlands before they are 4, you will automatically be invited to participate in the preventative healthcare monitoring and screening program run by your local consultatiebureau.
In addition to routine health checks, the child health care team may offer the following:
- Routine vaccinations in line with national program
- Parenting advice
- Support with breastfeeding, weaning, sleeping etc
- Recommendations for local classes and playgroups
- Preschool referrals (VVE indication) in the event your child has a language disadvantage and might benefit from free/subsidised access to an early learning environment. Preschool referrals can also be made for other developmental issues. Generally, VVE indications do not apply to expat families on the sole grounds that neither parent speaks Dutch. This is because most expat children pick up Dutch very quickly once they enter the school system.
The school doctor (schoolarts) continues the preventative healthcare program once children turn four. Should children encounter learning difficulties or behavioral issues at school, referrals can also be made for additional support.
- Ouder-en Kindteam (in Dutch), Amsterdam – child health team (consultatiebureau)
- Centrum Jeugd & Gezin, The Hague (Den Haag) – Centre for Children and Families (consultatiebureau)
- Centrum voor Jeugd en Gezin, Utrecht – Centre for Children and Families (consultatiebureau)
- Youz – mental health and addiction support for children, youth and young adults.
- Allekindertherapeuten (in Dutch) – interactive map directory of child therapists in the Netherlands
- ZorgkaartNederland (in Dutch) – directory of children’s physiotherapists in the Netherlands