Medical care

Living in Europe | Medical care | Netherlands

The medical system is a social provision, which means that everyone has health care insurance and access to care. The state also provides regular check-ups for children. The basic system starts with insurance or 'verzekering', often provided through an employer.


Once insured, it is important to register at a huisarts (general practitioner, GP, or family doctor). Your GP is your first point of contact for any illness except for emergencies. He or she will direct you to specialists when needed. Seeing a specialist requires a referral (verwijsbrief) if you want the insurance to cover the specialist’s fees. Most doctors speak English. It is advisable to find a GP and register with them as soon as possible. This can take some time as there are often waiting lists. Ask your HR contact as about locating local doctors without waiting lists. If you need medical attention while waiting to register, you can call a GP in your neighbourhood and ask to receive treatment as a non-registered patient (passant). Most GPs close at 16:00 and do not have weekend hours. You must usually get an appointment first, which you do by calling the receptionist. However, for minor ailments many doctors have a walk-in consulting hour (inloopspreekuur), usually between 8:00 and 9:00 hrs, where you can see the doctor on a first-come-first-served basis. Many doctors also have a telephone consultation hour (telefonische spreekuur) for simple questions or prescriptions.

Pharmacy (Apotheek)

The Dutch word for pharmacy is Apotheek. You can obtain prescribed drugs and other related items, such as non-prescription cough syrup, vitamins, pain relievers and homeopathic medicines. A drogist is shop that sells over-the-counter medicines, especially homeopathic medicines, as well as day-to-day personal hygiene items, perfumes, baby supplies, etc. without prescription.

Recept is a prescription which may only be given by a doctor. He or she may ask which pharmacy you would like to collect your medicine from and contact them on your behalf. It can be to your advantage to use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions.

Employees at the pharmacy are qualified, licensed pharmacists and can answer your questions about the drugs you are getting and about minor medical complaints. Opening hours are usually 8:00-17:30, and most are open for a few hours on Saturdays as well. If you need a prescription outside normal hours or at the weekend there is usually a duty pharmacy providing an out-of-hours service. Call 070 3451000 to locate one. There is one at Schiphol airport as well (go to the first aid office). If a pharmacy has night-time or weekend hours, this is usually posted in the window and also listed in the local newspaper under Medische Diensten (Medical Assistance). Here you will also find the numbers for the local hospitals and ambulance service.


There are many good hospitals in the Netherlands. You will find university, community and religious hospitals, and all can be expected to have a high level of care. Most Dutch hospitals offer the same specializations, so that going to one hospital is as good as going to another. However, some do specialize in particular ailments. Your GP can direct you to a suitable one if this is the case.

First Aid & Emergencies (Spoedgevallen)

The emergency phone number for the fire, police and ambulance service is 112. The accident and emergency department in hospitals is called EHBO (eerste hulp bij ongevallen) or SEH (Spoedeisende Hulp) You can go to the accident and emergency unit at your nearest hospital to receive immediate attention following an accident, without making an appointment. Take your insurance card for the hospital records. They will bill you after your treatment and this amount can be reclaimed from your insurance company. Note that, if urgent care is needed you will still be treated without having the right documents on you.


Children are given basic care and vaccinations through the local child health centre (consultatiebureau) (for children under 4 years of age) or the youth health and welfare doctor (jeugdarts) (for children aged 4-18 years), but in case of illness they should visit their GP. While all hospitals have children’s wards, there are also several excellent children’s hospitals in the country. These are particularly likely to have accommodation for parents or relatives who want to be close at hand.

Pregnancy & Maternity

The World Health Organization lists the Netherlands as one of the world’s safest places to have a baby. The way pregnancy and postnatal care is organized might be very different than you are used to. For instance in the Netherlands, homebirths are relatively popular. Read a detailed description of care and formalities surrounding pregnancy and maternity


Choosing a dentist (Tandarts) is just like choosing your doctor. Dentists are in high demand in the Netherlands, so you may need help from your HR contact to find a local dentist accepting new patients. Call as soon as possible and get your family's names on the waiting list. You will also find a 24-hour dentist emergency service (‘Algemene Tandartsen Spoedgevallen’). Dental care tends to be expensive; if you want, you can get a written estimate for recommended treatment prior to undergoing the procedures.

Healthcare for internationals

Healthcare in the Netherlands is considered to be amongst the best in the world. Healthcare practices may however be quite different from what you are used to in your home country and, as a consequence, you may feel that your needs and expectations are not fully met by Dutch healthcare.

There are healthcare providers that make an effort to accommodate international patients, but many are not equipped to serve the special needs of internationals. The support office at your institution should be able to advise you on which local healthcare providers are known to cater for internationals.

Healthcare for internationals (H4i) is a network of Dutch healthcare providers that are making an effort to close the gap between Dutch healthcare and the needs and expectations of internationals. These providers have educated their professionals to understand the healthcare needs of different nationalities and cultures, their staff speak English fluently (and often other languages as well) and all information is provided in English. When required they also spend extra time in consultation to understand your particular needs and help you navigate Dutch healthcare. Members of H4i also liaise with the community to get feedback on the services they provide.

Check out where to find healthcare providers that are member of the Healthcare for internationals network in the Netherlands here.