First point of contact
In the Dutch healthcare system, the family doctor, or GP (huisarts) is the gatekeeper to healthcare; if you ever need to see a specialist or go to the hospital, you will first have to visit your family doctor to get a referral (unless it is an emergency, of course). Only your family doctor can refer you to the necessary further specialists. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to register with a family doctor when you move to Maastricht (more on registering below), as they will be your first point of contact within the healthcare system.
An exception to this rule is dental care, where you can approach a dentist or dental clinic directly.
The Dutch system requires you to visit a family doctor first to ensure that hospitals and specialists aren’t overwhelmed with patients whose complaints could easily be taken care of by the family doctor.
What does a family doctor do?
Every student should have a general practitioner. This way you can get medical attention if you need it. A family doctor will not only refer you for further medical attention when needed, they will also talk through any medical concerns you may have, perform minor interventions and treatments and provide medical advice. Some family doctors may have additional licences so that they can, for example, do ultrasound examinations or insert IUDs. However, these can also be done by a specialist that your family doctor may refer you to if needed.
If necessary, the family doctor can also prescribe medication and further examinations or tests. They can also advise you about your health, dietary and exercise requirements. If you have any physical, or mental symptoms that trouble you, you can always contact your family doctor. The GP is also able to refer you to a psychologist in case you need help from mental health specialists.
How do I register with a family doctor?
When you move to Maastricht, you should register with a doctor in your neighbourhood as soon as possible in order to receive proper medical care and avoid burdening the hospital emergency services. Registering with a family doctro is by no means mandatory, but it’s highly recommended. It is definitely smarter to register with a family doctor before you need it as it is free of charge in case you ever face some unexpected medical issues. It is much more challenging to seek medical advice in the Netherlands if you are not registered with a GP.
You are free to choose any family doctor you like; they all have the same level of training, so you don’t need to worry about choosing a better or worse GP. But if you wish to, you can look up huisarts reviews. The websites of family doctors also normally have more information on the doctors for example, if they have some additional licences.
Here are some additional tips you should consider when choosing a GP.
- Find a practice that is close to where you live. Ideally, your huisarts should be able to reach you within 15 minutes by car in urgent cases. Some family doctros will also only accept clients from the nearby neighbourhoods. Also, if you are sick, it is nice to have the GP close by. You can find a list of all the family doctor practices in Maastricht and their locations on our city map.
- What is the gender of the family doctor? Your family doctor may have to conduct medical examinations on you, so you might have a preference for a particular gender.
- Are there other healthcare providers nearby, such as a pharmacy, physiotherapist or hospital?
- What are the opening hours? Does your family doctor have out of office hours as well? Normally, larger clinics that have several family doctors also have a doctor working later into the evening or during the weekends.
- In what ways is it possible to schedule an appointment? For example by telephone or via the internet?
When you’ve chosen the practice you want to register with, you should immediately go ahead and do so. Some family doctor practices allow you to register online; you’ll have to visit their website to check. You may also be able to register over the phone. Generally, you’ll need the following documents when you register with a GP: a valid ID, BSN and health insurance details. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it is enough to be used as health insurance. Some family doctors are not accustomed to the EHIC card and thus may require you to have Dutch health insurance but know that this is not necessary. However, you may have to first pay the bill yourself and then ask your EHIC provider for a reimbursement.
It’s possible that your family doctor asks you to attend a first consultation to get to know you and your medical history; feel free to ask them any further questions about the Dutch healthcare system. It might also be a good idea to bring medical records and information about any medication you might be taking with you.
Note that you can only be registered with one GP at a time.
How do I make an appointment with my family doctor?
Depending on the GP practice, appointments can be scheduled either online or by phone. Check on their website to make sure! Some GPs may even make house calls if you’re too ill to visit. You can ask the GP assistant to see if this is an option. If you are acutely ill, you can usually get an appointment for the same day.
Should I visit the family doctor?
Sometimes you might be a bit unsure whether you should visit the doctor. There is an online triage tool available called “Do I need to see a doctor”. By filling in your gender, age, and symptoms, the tool will be able to tell you if you should go to the family doctor with your complaints. You can find the tool on the website of the GP Emergency Post hapmaastricht.nl. The questionnaire is reliable and has been created by Dutch healthcare professionals based on scientific data. You can also find more information about certain symptoms and illnesses on gpinfo.nl.
How much does it cost to go to the family doctor?
If you have Dutch basic health insurance, then seeing a family doctor in the Netherlands is fully covered by this, and you don’t need to pay any deductible for GP consultations. Otherwise, check with your insurance provider whether you will be reimbursed if you attend any appointments with a GP. A basic appointment has a fixed price of approximately €35, if you come with a single complaint. If you have several complaints and require over 20 minutes for the consultation, then the price is approximately €70. Generally, if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can pay for the appointment yourself and claim the money back from your national insurance provider afterwards.
How can I change my family doctor?
At some point during your stay in the Netherlands, you may wish to change your GP, either because you’re not happy with their services, or because you may have moved accommodation so that the GP you first registered with is too far from your new home; or you might even move to a different city in the Netherlands. In any case, you should first register with a new GP, and immediately deregister from your old one. When doing so, you should inform your prior GP of a few things:
- As of when you will switch to the new family doctor
- Why you decided to switch to another family doctor
You can also ask your former huisarts to send your medical file to the new huisarts. This can only be done with your consent, but is very useful, so that your new GP is up to date and well-informed about your medical history.
How do I deregister from my family doctor?
At some point you will most likely move away from Maastricht and thus should also deregister from your GP. You can simply do this either by calling them or some GPs even allow you to do this online. Make sure to do this when you move away from Maastricht!