We create

team spirit

The Netherlands - Living

Doctor, Hospital and Co.

The health system in the Netherlands works a little differently than in Germany. A golden rule is: "First, do no harm!" From this point of view, many drugs (such as antibiotics) are not prescribed and superfluous examinations are not performed. Even regular examinations can cause stress and above all, increase the chance of a measurement error. Do not worry! The Dutch health system is one of the best in Europe.1

The family doctor plays an important role in the health system. He is the first point of contact for all health problems and is more fully educated than the German family doctor. He is a gatekeeper for the health services.

If you want to visit a specialist, you always need a referral from the family doctor, who belongs to the highest level (eerste lijn) in the health system. Also included in this group are dentists, district nurses, speech therapists, maternity wards midwives, and physiotherapists. Specialists (tweede lijn) are mostly found in hospitals or clinics.

However, you only get a referral if the family doctor cannot treat the complaints themselves. If you are in doubt you should just ask. The family doctor prescribes contraceptives for example. Unlike in Germany, usual preventive check-ups are often not available in Netherlands. You have to get used to this first, but this decision was a product of an informed study. There are however large-scale population surveys (bevolkingsonderzoek). You do not have to worry about this, because on a certain deadline (age-dependent) all required information is automatically delivered.

In the Netherlands, it is customary to be registered with a regular family doctor. Prescriptions are not given to the patient, but they are sent directly to a specific pharmacy near the doctor. There you can pick up his medication. In this pharmacy you are usually registered. The pharmacist knows exactly what medication someone takes and can warn about possible complications from other drugs. Neither the enrollment at a family doctor nor the registration at the pharmacy is mandatory, but offers some advantages. For example, one can avail of the emergency service outside the normal office hours of the family doctor. Furthermore, if you are enrolled in a family doctor, you have a secure contact point in case of illness. Finding a family doctor when you get sick can cause problems because family practices can refuse admission, for example, if too many people are registered in practice.

The following offers given are very helpful:

Doctor, Hospital and Co.

Health insurance

Anyone who works in the Netherlands is required to have a Dutch health insurance. If you are not insured, you will receive a fine. The organizations that offer health insurance are private companies. There are about 40 different providers. The Ministry of Health determines which benefits each health insurance must at least offer.

The basic insurance covers less than the health insurance in Germany. For example, it does not cover the costs for the dentist or physiotherapist. You can take out additional health insurance for these additional costs. Booking extra packages is common.

To compare different health insurances and their benefits, you can use a website like Independer or Zorgwijzer. The monthly contribution does not depend on your income but low-income individuals can apply for government support, called zorgtoeslag. On January 1, the health insurance can be changed, or the contract terms can be altered.

Important: Ask before each treatment whether there are extra costs involved. Do not be surprised!

Our tip: Ask your employer for health insurance options. It may be that you can make such a better deal.

Try this comparison tool to find your nearest health insurance in the Netherlands.

On vacation in the Netherlands

Health insurance in Germany and insured in the Netherlands on holiday? You have the right of treatment with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is printed on the back of the German health insurance card. This card covers the cost of immediate medical and dental treatment, as well as medicines. Hospitalizations and operations are also paid. The decisive factor is whether the service provided is urgently necessary due to the health of the patient.

Patients should only seek treatment from doctors or hospitals that are part of the statutory health insurance system. Private medical treatments are not included. A return transport to Germany will not be accepted. Inform yourself in advance about benefits and costs. The EHIC is no substitute for travel insurance and includes many other rules. The conclusion of a travel health insurance can therefore also be useful when traveling to other EU countries. More information on this topic is available from the European Commission.

Doctor, Hospital and Co.

Blood, ultrasound and other examinations

Most family doctors can perform quick test of urine or blood. If you do not feel well and need more data, your GP will send you to a lab (or hospital). There, a blood sample will be taken and appropriate examinations will be conducted. Detailed urine or stool analyzes are also carried out in the laboratory indicated by the family doctor. For ultrasound examinations and x-rays, a referral to the Polyclinic is written.

All results will be reported to the GP who will then discuss them with you and initiate any treatment or refer you to a specialist.

Doctor, Hospital and Co.

Medical emergency service

The medical emergency service is handled by Huisartsenpost. Are unsure if you can come by? Call your Huisartsenpost to briefly clarify situations.

Life threatening situation? Call 112!

The medical care is not only very service-oriented, but it also has high availability. The family doctor is available for both urgent and non-urgent matters during office hours.

The GPs also take part in an emergency service concept, so that the availability for urgent matters is guaranteed every hour of the week. When patients decide to visit for non-urgent matters, care during urgent cases is jeopardized.

Huisartsenposten are mostly independent medical practices. Here the family doctors are usually available in the evening, at night and on weekends. You can either ask your GP for the address or find it on the internet.

Again, are unsure if you can come by? Call your Huisartsenpost to briefly clarify situations.  Are you experiencing a life threatening situation? Call 112!

Own risk

For members of a Dutch insurance applies: The family doctor is fully reimbursed. The care is not at the expense of your compulsory deductible. This also applies to the care at a huisartsenpost. The care at an emergency department/first aid takes place in a hospital. The compulsory deductible applies to this care. Have you not fully utilized your deductible? Then you pay part of the bill yourself.2

Doctor, Hospital and Co.


Pharmacies are mostly found in residential areas near a family doctor. There are significantly fewer pharmacies than in Germany. Many drugs are also available in drugstores in the Netherlands. The employees in the drugstore are trained in drug counseling.

A very popular remedy for complaints of all kinds is Paracetamol. It is prescribed and taken in all situations from the flu to toothache and even during pregnancy. It is also highly considered because it is very cheap. It is a beneficial remedy that relieves pain, reduces fever and has few side effects.

Doctor, Hospital and Co.


Vaccination in the Netherlands is only free for children and is carried out by the Consultatiebureau. Adult booster doses have to be paid by for personally unless an additional insurance option has been chosen to cover these costs. The same applies to vaccinations and precautionary measures against tropical diseases.

Flu vaccinations are taken under certain conditions. If you are in the target group, you will receive an invitation from your family doctor.

Doctor, Hospital and Co.


Most hospitals in the Netherlands have several functions:

For symptoms that the family doctor cannot alleviate or cure, or which requires an in-depth examination, a referral to the Polyclinic can be made. The results are exchanged with the family doctor. Depending on the severity, the patient may go home or be hospitalized.

With some illness, it is clear in advance that a stationary admission must take place. The hospital decides after consultation with your GP or specialist when the admission will take place. The room occupancy depends on a few factors and the patient has no direct influence over this.

Emergency treatment
In emergencies, medical care is provided directly through the emergency room of hospitals. After the appropriate measures have been taken, it is also decided whether the patient should be hospitalized or released for further treatment by the family doctor.

In case of emergency call 112!

Overall, hospitals in the Netherlands have a very good standard and reputation. One problem of medical care in the Netherlands however is that due to the high population density there are few places for specific therapies or diagnostics. As a result, the waiting lists are sometimes very long. Some patients seek help in neighboring countries. Please note however that not every health insurance company covers the costs of a planned treatment abroad.

Hospitals in the Netherlands are digitized. You need to register in advance and get a chip card with your basic data.

You must also assume that you will be released as soon as possible after hospitalization thus hospitals not only save costs, but also ensures that another patient can be helped quickly. More importantly, the patient will come to a familiar environment and move more through the discharge. The average recording time depending on age and disease is between 2 and 7 days. Over 90% of patients are discharged to go home while others remain either in hospitals or other facilities. 3

A simple overview of all hospitals in the Netherlands is offered by BRV, a professional association. Algemeen Dagblad, (AD) published in November 2018 a current Top 100 of Dutch hospitals.

1 Health Consumer Powerhouse (2018). Euro Health Consumer Index 2017. Retrieved on March 5, 2018, from https://healthpowerhouse.com/files/EHCI-2017/EHCI-2017-report.pdf
2 Rijksoverheid. Wanneer moet ik naar de huisartsenpost of de spoedeisende hulppost? Retrieved on April 23, 2019, from https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/eerstelijnszorg/vraag-en-antwoord/huisartsenpost-spoedeisende-hulp
3 Nederlandse Vereniging van Ziekenhuizen (NVZ) (2017). Brancherapport algemene ziekenhuizen 2017. Retrieved on March 5, 2018, from https://ziekenhuiszorgincijfers.nl/assets/uploads/NVZ-Brancherapport-2017.pdf