The Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport – VWS (The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport), feels that everyone resident in the Netherlands should be able to consult their huisarts (General Practitioner, GP), a hospital, or other care providers whenever necessary. Alongside health insurers, care providers and patient organisations, the VWS oversees healthcare services and ensures that residents are offered choices in their own care.
All residents in the Netherlands are obliged to take out a basic level of national health insurance within the first four months of arrival, regardless of whether they have existing health insurance from another country. Once a health insurance policy has been taken out the next step is to register with a GP in the local area.
Choosing a doctor
Once registered with the municipality it is important to register with a huisarts (General Practitioner – GP) in the local area.
All GPs have the same education and are approved by the Dutch authorities. It is possible to make an appointment to meet a GP and discuss personal requirements before deciding whether to register with their practice. It is always useful to take along medical records for existing conditions.
In the Netherlands, the GP plays an important role in accessing the healthcare system. The GP is the primary physician, compiling medical information and maintaining contact with specialised medical professionals. To secure an appointment with a medical specialist, a verwijsbrief (referral letter) from the GP is required. This ensures that the GP is aware of any health problems and can advise whether specialised care is required and if so, which specialist can possibly offer the best care.
Health insurers may refuse reimbursements without a GP referral letter. This rule does not apply to emergency medical care.
In the Netherlands, medications are prescribed more cautiously than most countries, especially for antibiotics. As a result, a GP might wait a bit longer when prescribing them. The reason for this is to decrease the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections.
As the Dutch healthcare system is rather restrictive, prescriptions may be required for medicines that can be purchased “over the counter” in other countries. The health insurance provider dictates which medications and brands are covered within each health insurance policy.
In the Netherlands, there is a difference between a drogisterij (such as Etos or Kruidvat) and an apotheek (pharmacy/chemist). Drogisterijen supply non-prescription medications such as mild painkillers and antihistamines, baby supplies, general toiletries and cosmetics. Apotheken (chemists) are the only place where prescription drugs can be obtained. A GP is generally affiliated with several pharmacies located close to their practice and they can send the prescription directly to the chemist on the patient’s behalf, if that patient is registered with the chemist.
There are three types of hospitals in the Netherlands: academische/universitaire ziekenhuizen (academic/teaching hospitals), ziekenhuizen (general hospitals) and categorale ziekenhuizen (specialized hospitals). The GP will be able to give advice on which hospital will best suit the treatment of the existing medical condition.
Hospitals generally have a waiting list; sometimes it can take months before medical treatment can commence. It may therefore be advisable to call different hospitals that offer the same medical treatment to see if the same treatment can be arranged sooner. GP’s can provide more detailed information on hospital care in the local area.
Maastricht Universitaire Medisch Centrum (MUMC+)
P. Debyelaan 25
6229 HX Maastricht
Tel: +31 (0)43 387 6543
Zuyderland Medisch Centrum Sittard-Geleen
Dr. H. van der Hoffplein 1
6162 BG Sittard-Geleen
Tel: +31 (0)88 459 7777
Zuyderland Medisch Centrum Heerlen
Henri Dunantstraat 5,
6419 PC Heerlen
Tel: +31 (0)88 459 7777
Urgent and Emergency medical care
In the Netherlands there is a difference between urgent medical care and emergency medical care.
If an urgent medical situation arises during office hours residents of Maastricht, Meerssen, Eijsden-Margraten, and Valkenburg aan de Geul are advised to contact their GP.
If an urgent medical situation arises outside of office hours residents can contact the huisartsenpost (urgent care centre) who will assess the situation and either advise the patient to wait until the GP opens or make an appointment for the patient to be taken to the huisartsenpost.
Huisartsenpost Maastricht en Heuvelland: +31 (0)43 387 7777
Huisartsenpost Sittard-Geleen: +31 (0)46 400 9925
Huisartsenpost Heerlen: +31 (0)45 577 8844
If an emergency situation arises and ambulance is needed, call 112.
Dialling this number will connect to a central operator who will assess what emergency services are required and that the proper authorities are alerted. Calls are answered within three seconds, and if the caller starts speaking in English the operator will respond in English. If an ambulance is called it will bring the patient to the spoedeisende hulp (accident & emergency) at the nearest hospital, often recognised by the sign SEH.
A tandarts (dentist) does not always have availability to accept new clients. An initial intake appointment must be made for all family members before treatment can commence. Not all dentists are covered by all national health insurance policies, check with both dentist and health insurance provider to ensure coverage. National health insurance covers children under 18 for all dental costs. Extra health insurance policies can be taken out to cover certain dental care expenses, but this is not included in the standard package for all people above 18 years.
After registration, the dentist will generally schedule in a regular check-up every six months. The dentist will perform most routine procedures themselves. Anaesthesia will generally not be given automatically; it must be requested from the dentist before dental treatment (if required).
In the event of an urgent/emergency dental situation, contact the dentist. Outside office hours, the dentist’s voicemail will provide contact details for the local spoedhulp tandarts (emergency dentist).
Spoedhulp tandarts Maastricht: +31 (0)900 424 3434
Spoedhulp tandarts Sittard-Geleen: +31 (0)85 773 3577
Spoedhulp tandarts Heerlen: +31 (0)45 405 2185