Dutch healthcare system
The Dutch healthcare system can be very confusing if you are used to something else in your home country. Hence, we at HAP Wijnhaven want to help you understand it better and adapt.
Below you will find general information about the Dutch healthcare system. Please refer to the FAQ for more practical matters.
What to arrange upon arrival
1. Register at the municipality to get a BSN.
2. Acquire mandatory health insurance as soon as possible (unless you are exempt). You have 4 months for this, and it will be backdated to your arrival date.
3. Acquire a Dutch 06-number. Healthcare providers in The Netherlands often cannot call international numbers. Referrals to specialists also require a 06-number. You can get a cheap pre-paid Dutch simcard just to receive calls.
4. Register with a GP. Please do not wait until you actually fall ill.
The GPs in the Netherlands play an important role. We are the first point of contact for medical issues, whether it’s an emergency or not. If necessary, we can refer you to any hospital in The Netherlands. Your GP also coordinates your healthcare as a whole. We are responsible for keeping your medical records and will receive letters from the hospital if you do go to a specialist.
Since the GP is so important and it should be accessible to all, you never pay a cent for GP care if you are insured. GP care is always exempt from your deductible.
It is advisable to register with a practice as soon as possible, instead of waiting till you become ill. GC Wijnhaven is currently open for registrations.
If you are unable to register anywhere, you can be seen as a casual patient. Our partner, International Health Centre, offers non-urgent casual patient appointments here. For emergencies after work hours, you can contact the Huisartsenpost, which is located inside the Sint Franciscus Hospital.
Every practice has their own way of working. We are a very modern practice, and we make use of several e-health solutions. We apply MijnGezondheid.net for this, a safe online patient portal where you can arrange your own health matters. Availability by phone is limited, online we are available 24/7. If you are someone who prefers to arrange as much as possible digitally, instead of waiting on the phone, we are the ideal practice for you. More information on how we work can be found here.
International Health Centre Rotterdam
iHCR is our partner that caters to internationals and it’s open 3 days a week. Internationals can book appointments as casual (non-registered) patients. Perhaps they were unable to register anywhere or they might want a service that their own GP does not provide, such as preventive checkups.
Registered Wijnhaven patients will occasionally be seen by doctor Nguyen at iHCR as well.
General principles of the Dutch healthcare system
Equality: In a lot of countries, you can choose either private or public healthcare depending on how much you can or want to spend. In The Netherlands, this does not matter when it comes to healthcare providers. They all charge everyone the exact same amount, so there is no possibility of preferential treatment. Health insurers also can’t deny you basic coverage based on age, gender or medical history. Everyone receives the same type and quality of treatment, regardless of social status or income.
Solidarity: Healthcare is funded by all citizens through income tax and mandatory health insurance fees. Those who cannot afford the mandatory health insurance, such as students or those with a low income, can apply for benefits to pay for the health insurance. If you want care without any medical indication, such as a preventive MRI scan, you pay for this out of pocket, in order to not strain the system. This is to ensure access to care for everyone.
Freedom of choice: You are always free to choose your healthcare provider. This is why GPs can only refuse your registration if they are full, if you live too far or if you don’t have Dutch health insurance. Most of the time you can also choose which specialist and which hospital you want to visit, although waiting times can vary. Check with your health insurance before selecting a specialist healthcare provider if they are contracted.
Use of medication – only paracetamol?
We hear a lot that Dutch GPs always send you home with paracetamol. This is not true, but Dutch doctors do approach medication differently than some other countries. For example, in some countries they prescribe antibiotics for any kind of infection. However, medication can have harmful side-effects; the over-use of antibiotics can lead to intestinal issues because it also affects the ‘good’ bacteria. Hence, the wait-and-see approach is often applied for minor illnesses like the flu, because the body can often solve these on its own. So yes, a Dutch GP will send you home with paracetamol if you come for a common cold or flu. Do not worry, the Dutch GP will prescribe medication if it’s necessary and proven to be effective.
If the GP cannot help you within their expertise, he/she will refer you to a specialist. You can do your own research and tell your GP which hospital you would like to go to, or let them choose whichever hospital has the shortest waiting time.
The following healthcare providers do not require a specialist: Physiotherapists, midwives, dieticians, opticians, audiologists, dentists, holistic therapists.
GPinfo.nl – trustworthy information in English about health and diseases, made by Dutch doctors.
Thuisarts – the Dutch version (more topics available)
Zorgwijzer – comparing different Dutch health insurances.
Expat Centre – specialised one stop shop for expats in Rotterdam