Dutch health care system The Hague

Dutch health care system

The Dutch health care system may seem complicated at first, but is easy to understand once you get familiar with the basic pillars of the system:

  • General practitioners (GP's, huisartsen) play an important role in the Dutch healthcare system; they are the first port of call if you have health problems. Patients are free to choose their own doctor, giving you the convenience of choosing one close to home. Doctors have practices in residential areas and operate on an appointment system. If necessary, the doctor will refer patients to a specialist at a hospital. Read more in our section on GP’s.
  • Hospitals provide a high level of care. Academic hospitals are more specialized in certain areas, general hospitals have less specialized care. Hospitals use the latest equipment and physicians are continually educated on the basis of the latest insights from the scientific community. Read more in our section on hospitals.
  • Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands and not covered by basic insurance policies (except for children under 18 and specialist dental care, such as surgery). Dentists (tandarts) in the Netherlands usually work in their own single-dentist practice and at present most of them still do so, although the trend is that practices are becoming larger with more than one dentist per practice. Read more on dentists.
  • At the pharmacy, you can get any medication that is not available over-the-counter. These require a prescription from your GP. You can hand in this prescription at your local pharmacy (apotheek). Read more on pharmacies.

Health care is funded through taxes and mandatory health insurance fees, so it is an accessible social service. The Dutch health care system is based on egalitarianism: everyone receives the same type and quality of treatment regardless of social status, gender and income.

Interpreting and translation services

In the Medical Treatment Contracts Act (WGBO) it has been determined that the care provider has to communicate in a language the client can understand. If you don’t speak Dutch well, there may be some cause for misunderstanding between you and the medical practitioner you’re consulting. If this is the case, ask your medical practitioner to phone the Tolk- en Vertaalcentrum Nederland (TVcN) for interpreting and translation services. If your medical practitioner makes the request, the costs will be covered free of charge. The interpreter can listen over the telephone and ensure that there is a good understanding between patient and doctor. An interpreter can occasionally come to the appointment if interpretation over the telephone is not possible.