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Dutch Health Care: Basic Navigation

We all have to go to the doctor at some point, but if you’re new to the Netherlands, the process might well be different than you are used to, and can lead to some confusion. To help you navigate the basics of getting primary and emergency care, Lana Huf Germain has put together a quick guide to some of the idiosyncratic features of the Dutch health care system.

Some of the most common questions newcomers to the Netherlands have about the Dutch healthcare system include:

  • What’s the role of the Doctor’s Assistant?

  • What’s an Inloopspreekuur?

  • When do you contact the Huisartsen Post?

  • Do you really have to get a referral for everything?

If any of these sound familiar, keep reading to learn what they are, and what they are not!

Inloopspreekuur/Walk-in hour

The Inloopspreekuur is the time of day when medical treatment is available without an appointment; they are usually early in the morning, but ask your practice for its specific hours. Be aware that an Inloopspreekuur meeting will be a lot shorter than a regular doctor's appointment.

Meant For: acute problems that need to be attended to pretty quickly, but are not life threatening

Examples: woke up with extreme ear pain / infected eye / a painful splinter

Not Meant For: non-acute complaints or referral requests

Doctor’s Assistant

Meant For: providing first line of support, small first aid problems, advice, renewing prescriptions

Examples: ear checkup / blood work / vaccinations / pap smear

Not Meant For: new prescriptions or referral requests

The Doctor

Meant For: all problems, new prescriptions and referrals

Examples: all physical and mental problems: adult, child, and newborn

Not Meant For: extreme life threatening emergencies


The Huisartsenpost is for medical care available after regular doctor's hours, from 17:00 - 07:00. The number for the Amsterdam Huisartsenpost is: 0800 00 30 60

Meant For: acute but minor emergencies that can’t wait until the next day

Examples: child swallowed hazardous substance / small physical accidents / extremely high fever

Not Meant For: anything that can wait until the next day's inloopspreekuur

At Home Visit

Meant For: patients who are too sick to leave the house and have a small emergency

Examples: post childbirth sudden high fever / torn ligaments / seizure with fever

* Please note the doctor will only come to check and will call the ambulance if necessary.

Not Meant For: flu, fever, or anyone living more than 10 minutes from the practice


Meant For: life threatening emergencies or referrals via your family doctor

Examples: heart attack, baby turning blue, extreme physical accidents

Not Meant For: minor physical accidents, sprained ankles, anything without a referral

* Please note if you visit a hospital Emergency Room without a referral you will be charged for the full amount.




(Ear / Nose/ Throat)

Couple's Therapist


You will need to make an appointment with your family doctor to get a referral to a specialist; without a referral you will be charged for the full amount by your insurance company.

Useful Information

  • In the Netherlands, women over the age of 30 receive an official reminder for a pap smear every 5 years; an annual check is not covered by your insurance.

  • A fever is not considered a valid reason to stay indoors. If your child has a fever, you are allowed to take them to the doctor if the doctor or doctor’s assistant considers it necessary.

  • In the Netherlands, doctors do not prescribe antibiotics as much as doctors in other countries do; the belief is that frequent use of antibiotics increases the body’s immunity to them, thus diminishing their effectiveness in the long run.

  • A seizure, although it may look frightening, is not considered life threatening, and for this you can call your family doctor. If, however, your child is turning blue, or has white lips – CALL 112.

  • If your child has a fever, it’s important to dress them lightly so the heat can escape, but make sure that their hands and feet are not cold. The hands and feet will conduct the heat out, if they are cold – the heat will rise to their heads.

  • If you hurt or fracture a ligament or bone, whether it’s broken, twisted or sprained – always ice the injury to reduce swelling. If an x-ray is required, the clearest image can only be obtained if the swelling.

This article was published for Stichting Amsterdam Mamas

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