There are a few things that people from abroad often notice about Dutch healthcare:
- The general practitioner (GP), called a huisarts in Dutch, is unknown in many health systems. In addition, the role of GPs in other health systems may be different from the very central role of the GP in Dutch healthcare. What to expect from the huisarts.
- The GP is your first contact in The Netherlands, even if you would prefer to see a specialist. The GP will assess your symptoms and give you a referral to a specialist if they deem It necessary. This system works well in The Netherlands and our GPs have experience with a wide range of symptoms and treatments. It’s always a good idea to invest in a strong relationship with your GP and explain any personal or cultural concerns you have so they can support you.
- In the event of a life threatening emergency, call 112. For all other emergencies, call your GP. Your GP will order an ambulance for you if necessary. If you have an after hours emergency, call the after hours GP (huisartsenpost). They will assess you over the phone and either invite you in for a weekend appointment, send a GP for a house call, or suggest treatment at home so you can call your personal GP during office hours for an appointment.
- In the Netherlands, doctors are less likely to prescribe antibiotics and other medication compared to what you may be used to. After a consultation, it is possible that you will receive a diagnosis but no medication. You are advised to come back if the symptoms do not get better. You may also be advised to take pain killers like paracetamol to reduce any pain or discomfort. Why are doctors less likely to prescribe medication?
- A yearly health check is not recommended by Dutch GPs. Learn more about health checks in the Netherlands.
- In the Netherlands, pregnancy and childbirth are considered natural events. Giving birth at home is common and pain medication is not generally given. You can always opt for pain relief and to give birth in a hospital if you prefer. Midwives are medical professionals who have received 4 years of training. In general, GPs do not provide perinatal care (care during pregnancy and childbirth), nor maternity care afterwards. Read more about which care the GP does and does not provide.
- Dutch GPs may seem blunt and direct: directness is a Dutch cultural trait that may take some time getting used to. We recommend that you prepare for each doctor’s visit by writing down your questions and concerns.
- The Dutch are liberal when it comes to nudity. You might not be offered a privacy screen to get undressed behind or a sheet to cover yourself with during an examination. If you are uncomfortable with this, for example because of your culture or religion, you can tell your doctor about your concerns and needs. Women (and men) can always bring someone with them to a doctor’s visit.
In general: you should not be afraid to ask for the information or service that you need or feel comfortable with.