Home Healthcare Healthcare Services How to find doctors in the Netherlands
Last update on August 05, 2020
Written by Dr. Dany Edmond Jabbour

Learn how to find and register with a doctor or emergency doctor in the Netherlands, plus how much it costs to visit a Dutch doctor.

The Netherlands has a very high standard of healthcare which is rated among the best in the world. The Dutch healthcare system is consistently ranked as the best in Europe according to the Euro Health Consumer Index, including the standards of doctors in the Netherlands who are available through primary healthcare. 

There are more than 56,000 doctors and physicians in the Netherlands, including around 25,000 general practitioners (GPs). This works out at around 3.4 doctors per 1,000 citizens, just under the EU average of 3.6 doctors. Most GPs in the Netherlands are registered with the Dutch College of General Practitioners.

If you are a foreigner living in or visiting the Netherlands, you will be able to visit a Dutch doctor if you have the necessary health insurance. For residents in the Netherlands, the cost of visiting a doctor is typically covered by their mandatory Dutch health insurance.

In this guide, we explain how going to the doctor works in the Netherlands:

Conditions for seeing doctors in the Netherlands

GP doctors (huisarts) in the Netherlands are part of primary healthcare services and are the first point of contact if you have a health complaint that is not an emergency. Primary healthcare in the Netherlands also includes some specialist treatment from physiotherapists, midwives, and psychotherapists, who can be visited directly. Other kinds of specialist treatment (e.g., cardiologist, neurologist) will need a doctor’s referral.

Doctors in the Netherlands work either independently or in small private groups. There are GP practices in all residential areas, as well as 24-hour provision available through primary care centers. Treatment from specialists in the Netherlands is often performed in Dutch hospitals.

You can register with a local doctor in the Netherlands as soon as you move. Residents are free to register with any doctor in the Netherlands of their choosing, although Dutch doctors are permitted to refuse patients if they are fully booked or if the patient does not live locally.

Costs of doctors in the Netherlands are covered by health insurance, which is compulsory for all official residents. Non-residents and temporary residents (those staying in the Netherlands for less than a year) can be exempt from taking out compulsory Dutch health insurance but will need to be covered by private medical insurance. Visitors from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland on short stays can get coverage through their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). See our guides to health insurance in the Netherlands and the EHIC for more information.

To see a doctor in the Netherlands, you will typically need to make an appointment. There are also drop-in sessions (inloop spreekuur) available, usually in the mornings. However, waiting times for doctors in the Netherlands are not too severe and you can usually be seen within two days of making an appointment.

Doctors in Amsterdam

Doctors in the Netherlands perform a wide range of procedures, including small surgical procedures, basic mental healthcare, and even some emergency care. Only Finnish GPs carry out a wider scope of primary care services than Dutch GPs.

For more information on general healthcare services available, see our guide to healthcare in the Netherlands.

How to find a doctor in the Netherlands

There are a number of ways you can find and choose a doctor in the Netherlands. Before registering with a Dutch doctor, you can make a pre-registration appointment with them to assess suitability, ask questions, and discuss your medical needs.

There are many English-speaking doctors in the Netherlands and most healthcare specialists speak English to a reasonable standard. You can also see our guide to medical terms and body parts in Dutch for a list of words and phrases. Embassies also typically publish lists of native speaking healthcare professionals in the Netherlands.

To find a doctor in the Netherlands, you can:

  • Check Expatica’s listings of doctors in the Netherlands
  • Find a list of doctors in the Netherlands on the DocVadis website.
  • Search for doctors by postcode here.
  • Search for doctors and assess doctor ratings here.
  • Search by area using the Dutch Yellow Pages (under huisartsen).
  • Check the community guides (gemeentegids) at your local town hall.
  • Call the Centrale Dokterdienst helpline on 020 592 3434.

Who can see a specialist doctor in the Netherlands?

To see a medical specialist in the Netherlands, you need a referral from a doctor and this will need to be sent to your insurer in order to claim a reimbursement of costs. However, referral rates to specialists in the Netherlands are relatively low. As primary GPs tend to perform a broad scope of services, patients are less likely to be referred elsewhere or prescribed medication than in many other countries. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, only 7% of patients visiting doctors in the Netherlands were referred for specialist treatment in 2014.

Once you are referred to a specialist in the Netherlands, you are free to choose one yourself. Most specialists in the Netherlands see patients at hospitals (either general or specialist hospitals) but waiting lists can be long, sometimes several weeks. Some specialist treatments are performed at independent treatment day-care centers, specialist clinical centers or trauma centers. See our guide to hospitals in the Netherlands for details on general and specialist hospitals available.

What to expect when seeing a Dutch doctor

Most visits to the doctors in the Netherlands are appointment-based. Some doctors in the Netherlands have drop-in sessions but this can involve a long wait. Home visits from doctors in the Netherlands are possible but they are not common.

When you arrive to your appointment with a Dutch doctor, you should present your ID along with your health insurance card (or proof of private health insurance) at the reception. Appointments frequently run late and last only around 15 minutes.

Doctors in the Netherlands are often reluctant to prescribe medication such as antibiotics, preferring ‘natural’ remedies where they see necessary. See here for information on how best to approach doctors in the Netherlands or get medication when it’s not forthcoming. If you have been given a prescription by a doctor in the Netherlands, you can usually pick it up straight away from a pharmacy (apotheek). Many of these operate 24 hours. You can find a local pharmacy here.

Doctors in Rotterdam

In addition to seeing a doctor in the Netherlands, you may also see the doctor’s assistant for certain procedures (injections, urine tests, etc.) or the practice nurse (monitoring of chronic conditions).

Costs of doctors and specialists in the Netherlands

Costs of appointments and treatment from doctors and specialists in the Netherlands are generally covered by health insurance. Mandatory public health insurance in the Netherlands requires everyone to pay an annual contribution (excess fee) towards medical bills, which is currently €385 a year, but this doesn’t apply to doctors’ services.

Costs of doctors and specialists in the Netherlands can be covered in three ways: the doctor invoices the insurers directly, in which case you don’t have to worry about any payment; the doctor sends the bill to you to send on to your insurer; or the doctor charges you the full costs which you then need to reclaim from the insurer. You will need an invoice or receipts if this is the case.

It’s worth checking the situation with the doctor beforehand so you can ensure you have the money with you if you need to pay upfront and get reimbursed. Costs of doctors in the Netherlands are around €30–50 for a consultation. If you see a specialist, you will need proof of referral from your doctor to claim the fee from your insurer, otherwise you may be forced to pay costs yourself.

You can also visit the Dutch government website for information on exactly what is covered by compulsory public health insurance. You can also search medication here to find out how much is covered by health insurance and how much you will have to pay yourself.

Insurance for medical costs in the Netherlands

If you have public health insurance in the Netherlands, this will cover general doctor’s costs. Those not covered by the Dutch public health scheme, temporary visitors and residents who want a higher level of coverage can choose from a number of expat-friendly private health insurers. These include international health insurance companies such as:

Dutch doctors in an emergency

Emergency treatment in the Netherlands is available to all, regardless of status. If you need emergency medical treatment, you can call the emergency services number 112 or visit the emergency department of the nearest hospital. However, if it is a situation your Dutch doctor can deal with, you may not be fully covered by Dutch health insurance if you seek out hospital emergency services instead.

There is 24-hour healthcare in the Netherlands provided by primary care centres. You can call your doctor out-of-hours for recorded information (in Dutch) on on-call medical services or call 020 592 3434 to get emergency support from the Centrale Dokterdienst service.

You can call 020 694 8709 for details of out-of-hours pharmacies.

See our list of emergency numbers in the Netherlands for more information.

Doctors in Amsterdam

For those who are newcomers or just visiting the Netherlands, there are doctors in Amsterdam that see patients on short notice or offer 24-hour emergency care in English. You will be typically charged, so it’s important to check the coverage of your health insurer before visiting any doctor in Amsterdam.

Some examples of where newcomers can find doctors in Amsterdam include:

  • Central Doctors (at Amsterdam Central Station)
  • Doctors Service Foundation of Amsterdam (088 003 0600, SHDA or Stichting Huisartsen Dienstenposten Amsterdam).

More information on doctors in the Netherlands