Published: 25 August 2009 Modified: 07 May 2013
In the Netherlands your general practitioner (huisarts) should always be your initial contact for all medical matters. The GP has access to many hospital facilities and can - on short notice if necessary - refer you to medical specialists. The GP keeps your medical record up to date and prescribes your medication.
The Dutch Board of General Practitioners (NHG) has developed the NHG Practice Guidelines. These are guidelines for GPs, formulated by GPs. The GPs must abide by the NHG Practice Guidelines.
Visiting your GP, or Huisarts
Your first foray into the Dutch medical system always begins with a consultation with your huisarts, or GP. You choose a GP and register with him/her yourself, and thereafter he/she will be your first point of contact for all medical matters. In case of illness as well as for general consultations on less urgent matters, first phone your GP. A trained medical assistant will answer your call and note your complaints in order to properly schedule your appointment.
Office visits (spreekuren)
Typically GPs have walk-in surgeries in the mornings (check with your doctor), while the afternoons are reserved for more urgent matters. If you prefer, you can also phone and make an appointment. Appointments are scheduled to last 10 minutes, so if you think you’ll need more time, or if you have more than one complaint, book a double appointment. Depending on the doctor, a double consult may already be common practice.
As always, write your questions down so you don’t forget anything, and always bring your insurance card with you. Your GP has access to laboratory, x-ray and other facilities at hospitals to aid in examination and diagnosis.
Should you be unable to visit your GP due to a serious illness, a very high fever for example, you can phone the surgery in the morning and arrange for a home visit. Do keep in mind, however, that office facilities are better suited for an examination.
Referrals to a medical specialist
In some cases your GP might refer you to a specialist, generally in hospital. He/she will give you a letter explaining your condition for you to pass on to the specialist. You can make an appointment at your convenience. In serious matters, like a bone fracture or heart attack, your GP’s office will communicate directly with the specialist.
During office hours first call your doctor. For first aid (open wounds, burns, bruising etc.) your GP can help you immediately. If you phone beforehand the doctor will know that you are coming and can make arrangements for you.
For emergencies outside of opening hours, phone your GP. On the answering machine you will hear options of where you can call. For treatment outside office hours, you can contact SMASH.
You can choose your GP yourself. There is no obligation to register in your postal code or as a family. The Huisartsen Kring Haaglanden (HKH) can help you find a GP who is close by you so you won’t have to travel far in the event that you are ill, or if the doctor must come to you. Contact Huisartsen Kring Haaglanden . Contact details are below.
If you are insured with a Dutch health insurance company (zorgverzekeraar) and your GP has your insurance number on record, he/she will send the bill electronically to the insurer depending on your insurance provider and the GP practice. In other cases you must pay the doctor yourself and you can declare the bill with your insurer. The fees for medical consultations are determined by law by the Health Service Tariff Tribunal. The extent to which the invoiced amount for the consultation and visits will be reimbursed by your insurance will depend on your coverage.
The GP is required to maintain confidentiality. Young people aged 16 years and older are legally considered to be adult patients. Everything you discuss with your doctor remains between the two of you. He/she will not make any information public, not even to family members.
Please inform your doctor if you were not given proper assistance by any person working with, or in lieu of, your GP. Serious complaints can be submitted in writing to the Huisartsen Kring Haaglanden.
Huisartsen Kring Haaglanden (HKH)