Learn how to find and register with a doctor in the Netherlands, receive emergency medical services and navigate through the ins and outs of the Dutch healthcare system.
The Netherlands has a very high standard of healthcare, rated among the best in the world. The Dutch healthcare system consistently ranks at the top in Europe according to the Euro Health Consumer Index. This includes the accessibility and performance of Dutch doctors who are available through primary healthcare.
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 Dutch residents, the cost of visiting a doctor is typically covered by their mandatory Dutch health insurance.
In this guide, you can find information on the following:
- Doctors in the Netherlands
- Who can access doctors in the Netherlands
- Finding a doctor in the Netherlands
- Registering with a doctor in the Netherlands
- Making an appointment with doctors in the Netherlands
- Medical specialists in the Netherlands
- Costs of doctors in the Netherlands
- Health insurance in the Netherlands
- Doctor prescriptions in the Netherlands
- Emergency doctors in the Netherlands
- Making a complaint about doctors in the Netherlands
- Useful Dutch medical phrases
- Useful resources
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.
Doctors in the Netherlands
Healthcare services in the Netherlands are delivered through primary care practices, with hospitals delivering secondary and emergency services. Dutch Doctors work either independently or within these primary care clinics. Most general practitioners (GPs) in the Netherlands are registered with the Dutch College of General Practitioners. There are more than 56,000 doctors and physicians in the Netherlands, including around 25,000 GPs. This works out at around 3.4 doctors per 1,000 citizens, just under the EU average of 3.6 doctors.
GP doctors (huisarts) in the Netherlands are the first point of contact if you have non-emergency questions regarding your physical or mental health. They are also the healthcare practitioners who take care of children, as pediatricians are considered specialists in the Netherlands. Primary healthcare also includes some specialist treatment from physiotherapists, midwives, and psychotherapists, who can be visited directly. Other specialist treatment (e.g., cardiologist, neurologist, urologist) require a referral.
You can find independent doctors or primary care clinics in all residential areas, with opening times generally from 8:00 – 17:00. Specialists often carry out treatment in hospitals or in specialty clinics.
Who can access doctors in the Netherlands?
International non-residents and tourists are able to access doctor services in the Netherlands. However, they will have to pay for the services up front and obtain reimbursement through their own travel medical insurance.
Upon receiving an official Dutch residence card, new residents from outside the EU/EEA have the obligation to take out Dutch health insurance within four months. After this, they are able to register and obtain services from a doctor in the Netherlands. New residents from inside the EU/EEA must take out Dutch health insurance if they are working and paying taxes in the Netherlands, or are over the age of 30.
For specific information on the requirements for Dutch residents from inside and outside the EU/EEA check out Zorgwijzer.
Finding 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.
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 Doctena website.
- Search for doctors by postcode.
- Search for doctors and assess doctor ratings.
- Check the community guides (gemeentegids) at your local town hall.
- Call the Centrale Dokterdienst helpline at 020 592 3434.
Finding English-speaking doctors in the Netherlands
There are many English-speaking doctors in the Netherlands and most healthcare professionals speak English at a reasonable level. Some medical clinics market themselves specifically to the English-speaking expat community. Embassies typically publish lists of native-speaking healthcare professionals in the Netherlands.
Doctors in Amsterdam
For those who are newcomers or just visiting the Netherlands, there are doctors in Amsterdam who see patients on short notice or offer 24-hour emergency care in English. You typically must pay, so it’s important to check the coverage of your health insurer before visiting any doctor in Amsterdam.
A few doctor practices for tourists or expats in Amsterdam:
- Central Doctors at Amsterdam Central Station
- Amsterdam Tourist Doctors
- Expat Care
- Expat Medical Center
- Doctors Service Foundation of Amsterdam (088 003 0600, SHDA or Stichting Huisartsen Dienstenposten Amsterdam).
Registering with a doctor in the Netherlands
You are free to register with any doctor you like in the Netherlands as soon as you move and receive your residence permit. However, Dutch doctors can refuse patients if they are full, or if their residence is not in close proximity to the practice. While it is not mandatory to register with a doctor in the Netherlands, we strongly recommend it. It may be difficult to find a suitable doctor when you are in urgent need, as nearby practices may not be taking new patients. Our advice is to register with a GP practice as soon as possible after your move.
Most doctors allow you to register online or in person at the clinic. You will need to have a valid ID, your citizen service number (BSN) and your health insurance details.
Upon registration, you will likely have an initial consultation appointment with the doctor to review your medical history. You should bring along your medical records, along with a list of medications you are using.
Making an appointment with doctors in the Netherlands
You must make an appointment (afspraak) to see a doctor in the Netherlands. You can make appointments online or over the phone. Waiting times are reasonable, and you should be able to see your doctor the same day or at worst within 2-3 days of making an appointment. Some clinics have specific time-slots for walk-in sessions (inloop spreekuur), which are usually first thing in the morning. It is also possible to make a telephone appointments (telefonische spreekuur) with your doctor, or their assistant, for simple questions or to renew prescriptions.
What to expect when visiting a doctor in the Netherlands
When you arrive for your appointment with a Dutch doctor, you should present your ID along with your appointment confirmation and your health insurance card at the reception. It is not uncommon for you to wait beyond your scheduled appointment time. Consultations usually last only 15 minutes. Home visits from doctors in the Netherlands are not common but can be arranged if the doctor feels that it is necessary.
It should be noted that, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, medical practices will have established protocols for patient consultations which need to be respected. Check with your doctor for the specific conditions at their clinic so you are prepared for your visit.
Doctors in the Netherlands are often reluctant to prescribe medication such as antibiotics, preferring ‘natural’ remedies or simply paracetamol where they see necessary. Additionally, they are not often proactive in making referrals to specialists. These differences in medical culture can be difficult for expats to get used to, if not downright frustrating.
How to talk to Dutch doctors so they listen
Our advice: be straightforward with the doctor, about your needs and expectations. The Dutch are quite direct – and this doesn’t stop with friends, family, and colleagues. Doctors in the Netherlands may be blunt as well, but don’t take it as unfriendly; doctors simply want to ensure they understand your symptoms, and you understand your treatment options. If you communicate with them the same way, you have a better chance at being heard, and getting something stronger than paracetamol.
In fact, an efficient approach to Dutch doctors is best described in Dutched Up, the book by Olga Mecking: ‘When explaining your illness, double the amount of time you’ve been sick, triple your symptoms – and that equals help’. While we recommend you stay calm, don’t hesitate to lie, exaggerate, or flatter to get your meds. Use your very cute child to get the flu shot right away instead of having to wait for weeks, for example.
Medical specialists in the Netherlands
To see a medical specialist in the Netherlands (cardiologist, neurologist, gynaecologist, etc.) you need a referral from a doctor. You must either bring this to the practitioner during the visit or send it to your insurer in order to claim a reimbursement. However, as primary GPs tend to perform a broad scope of services, patients are less likely to get a referral elsewhere or receive prescription medication compared to other countries. For example, GPs perform routine OB-GYN check-ups, including pap smears and IUD insertion or removal (yikes).
Once you receive a referral to a specialist in the Netherlands, your doctor may send you directly to the relevant hospital service. You are also free to choose one yourself. Most specialists in the Netherlands see patients at hospitals or at specialist clinics. Waiting lists are often a lot longer than GP appointments, sometimes taking several weeks – or months. See our guide to hospitals in the Netherlands for details on general and specialist hospitals available.
Costs of doctors in the Netherlands
Costs of appointments and treatment from doctors and specialists in the Netherlands generally receive coverage from health insurance. Mandatory public health insurance in the Netherlands requires everyone to pay an annual contribution (excess fee) towards medical bills. This 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 your insurance provider directly, in which case you don’t have to worry about any payment
- He sends the bill to you, to forward on to your insurer
- He charges you the full costs, which you then need to reclaim from the insurer. You will need an invoice or receipt if this is the case.
It’s worth checking with the doctor beforehand if you need to pay upfront and get a reimbursement. Costs of doctors in the Netherlands are around €30–50 for a consultation. If you see a specialist, you need proof of referral from your doctor to claim the fee from your insurer. Otherwise, you may have to pay the full costs yourself.
You can also visit the Dutch government website for information on exactly what compulsory public health insurance covers. You can also search for medication to find out how much your health insurance covers, and how much you will have to pay yourself.
Health insurance in the Netherlands
The basic Dutch health insurance covers essential medical care such as visits and treatments by a GP, prescriptions and hospital stays. This minimum standard is guaranteed by the Government and also includes midwifery, mental health care and physiotherapy for people with chronic diseases/conditions. You can then customize your health insurance package. Additional services may include acupuncture, homeopathy, orthodontics and dental care.
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:
You can also use Zorgwijzer’s health insurance comparison tool to find out which company is most in line with your needs and budget.
Doctor prescriptions in the Netherlands
When you get a prescription from your doctor, you will need to go to a pharmacy (apotheek) to collect your medication. Pharmacists in the Netherlands generally have a good level of English and can explain the right procedures for taking your medication properly. Your Dutch health insurance should cover the costs of most medications, but if you go to the pharmacy without insurance you will have to pay up the costs up front.
You also have the option to register at a pharmacy so your doctor can easily transfer your prescriptions. You can find local pharmacies most convenient for you at apotheek.nl.
Emergency doctors in the Netherlands
If you need emergency medical treatment, you can call the emergency services number 112, or visit the emergency department of the nearest Dutch hospital. However, if it is a situation your Dutch doctor can deal with (including, for example, stitches), you may not be fully covered by Dutch health insurance if you seek out hospital emergency services instead.
After business hours (17:00-8:00), local hospitals provide a GP service called the Huisartsenpost. You can use this for non life-threatening but semi-urgent situations, like if your child suddenly develops a fever or you cut yourself while making dinner. Call them for advice and they will give you an appointment, usually within an hour or two, if they estimate you need to see a doctor in person.
You can call your doctor out-of-hours for recorded information (in Dutch and/or English) 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.
Making a complaint about doctors in the Netherlands.
If you are not satisfied with the medical services you receive in the Netherlands, you should first address your concerns directly with your doctor. Again, they are a direct people and will be able to hear your dissatisfaction. If that does not resolve the issue, you can submit a complaint in writing with the clinic’s complaints officer. The complaints officer can help you with the drafting of the letter and serve as a mediator between you and your doctor.
Clinics can take up to six weeks to respond to your formal complaint. If you are still not satisfied with the response, you can refer your complaint to the independent dispute resolution board your clinic is affiliated with. You will not need a lawyer for this procedure but their decision is binding, and they will generally charge you a fee for the service. You always have the right to change doctors in the Netherlands if you are not satisfied with the care you have received.
Please consult the National Healthcare Report Center for more information on your options for resolving your healthcare complaints in the Netherlands.
Useful Dutch medical phrases
Even though most doctors and other healthcare professionals are competent in speaking English, here are a few key Dutch medical phrases that you may find useful:
- The accident – het ongeluk
- the appointment – de afspraak
- The emergency – het noodgeval
- The hospital – het ziekenhuis
- I need an ambulance – Ik heb een ambulance nodig
- I need to see a doctor – Ik heb een dokter nodig
You can also see our guide to medical terms in Dutch for a broader list of words and phrases.
- Government information on health insurance
- The Dutch health insurance information center
- The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport
- Search tool to find a doctor in the Netherlands
- Online tool to find a pharmacy in the Netherlands
- Information on what public health insurance covers
- Information on drug costs in the Netherlands