The Dutch healthcare system

The general practitioner and referrals

The Dutch Healthcare system has a very central role for your general practitioner ("huisdokter"). The general practitioner is a trained specialist in treating the most common complaints. The general practitioner can prescribe medication and refer you to a specialist or hospital if needed. The referral of the general practitioner is almost always required if you want to go to a hospital or specialist. If your general practitioner refers you to a different healthcare provider, the other health professional will again report their findings to your GP. You can visit a midwife, a physiotherapist or a dentist without a referral. You can read more about the Dutch Health System on Healthcare for Internationals.


You can only visit a specialist at a hospital with a referral from your general practitioner. If you want to read more about what to do in case of a medical emergency, have a look at our page 'information about emergencies'.


Your general practitioner can prescribe you medication. You can get this medication from a pharmacy. If you are looking for non-prescription medication such as pain relievers or treatments for the cold or the flu, you can go to a pharmacy or a drugstore ("drogist") such as Kruidvat or Etos.

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