The role of the GP
The role of the GP in the Dutch health system is central to all health care. For many newcomers the single most important difference between medical practice in The Netherlands and that of other countries is the predominant role of the GP. Your GP is the key to the Dutch world of medicine. The GP treats patients for basic problems and can answer most of your general health questions. (S)he will also perform, for example, standard gynecological or pediatric examinations. Your GP will also serve as your link to most other services, such as hospitalization, specialists, home nursing midwifery and physiotherapy
If you call the GP’s office to make an appointment, the GP’s assistant, will ask questions to determine the urgency of your situation. The GP’s assistant is a professional and has an obligation of secrecy.
Asking questions is done only to have the patient and the doctor better prepared, to suggest alternatives, like a consultation by phone or video, or in some cases, to check if more immediate action is required. Read more about the GP.
Referral for specialist medical care
If your GP cannot diagnose or treat a problem (s)he will refer you to a specialist. Your GP will usually provide you a letter of referral to be given to the specialist, whom you in turn will call for an appointment. You may have to wait several weeks or more for an appointment, unless the matter is urgent. Some insurance companies can work with you to help to speed up your appointment. More information about visiting a medical specialist or hospital
Preventative Care and Health Checks
The Netherlands has good nation-wide preventive health programs. Preventative health programs are available at different stages in an individuals development and most are free of charge.
There are screening programs during pregnancy and several after a child is born such as developmental check ups and a preventative vaccination programme. These check ups are done by the Consultation Bureau.
There are also population screening programs later in life for diseases such as breast, cervical and colon cancer. Next to that there are also screening options available for people at risk for certain disease such as cardiovascular, pulmonary or sexually transmitted diseases. Ask your GP about nation-wide preventative health programs and services.
A general check-up is not recommended in the Netherlands. This is because scientific evidence suggests that general health checks are unlikely to be beneficial and may cause harm. If you are concerned and still may wish for a general check up please contact your GP to discuss the matter.
Read more about Preventive Health programs.
Most medicines require a prescription from your GP after a personal consultation, since they can be potentially harmful. However, after a consultation, it is possible you will receive a diagnosis but no medication. Dutch physicians believe it is often best to let an illness run its course without tests and medication that may have harmful side effects. This wait-and-see approach is medically appropriate for minor illnesses such as a soar throat or a common cold. That being said we do also encourage a shared decision model, where patient and doctor as much as possible form a treatment plan together. If possible, show the medicine that you were on back home to the GP, who can prescribe this medication or find you an appropriate alternative. Prescriptions are filled at a pharmacy.
Read more about medication in the Netherlands.
Pregnancy and birth
In the Netherlands, pregnancy is considered a natural event. Home deliveries are common; about 30% of first babies and 65% of second babies are born at home. Of course you can also choose to deliver in a hospital, but without a medical need this may lead to additional costs. Check with your healthcare insurer which conditions apply.
Maternity and neonatal care is of the highest quality in the Netherlands. There is a unique system of midwives and gynaecologists. Midwives guide the healthy pregnancies and regular births. A gynaecologist steps in when complications arise. A midwife (who has a 4 year bachelor degree) is primarily a medical expert. But, aside from this, she is also a coach and a confidant during the whole pregnancy period.
If you are pregnant, the first thing to do is to consult your GP or midwife. Your GP is there to provide general medical advice and your midwife will start with the regular maternity care. You are free to choose your own midwife, who will meet with you regularly throughout your pregnancy and monitor your health and the wellbeing of your baby. Our clinic has its own midwife. Read more about giving birth and small children in the Netherlands.