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 GP and get a referral (unless your case is an emergency, of course). Only your GP can refer you to necessary further specialists. Exempt from this rule is dental care, where you can approach a dentist or clinic directly. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to register with a GP when you move to Maastricht (more on registering below), as they will be your first point of contact with the healthcare system.
You may find it strange or annoying that you need to visit a GP before being able to access further medical care; however, the Dutch system does this to ensure that hospitals and specialists are not over-burdened with patients whose complaints can be easily taken care of by the GP.
What does a GP do?
Every student should have a family doctor. This way you can get medical attention when you need it. A GP will not only refer you for further medical attention when needed, they will also talk with you about any medical concerns you may have, perform minor interventions and treatments and provide medical advice. If necessary, the general practitioner 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 even mental symptoms that trouble you, you can always contact your GP.
Registering with a GP
When you move to Maastricht, you should register with a doctor in your neighbourhood as soon as you can in order to receive proper medical care and avoid burdening the hospital emergency services. Registering with a GP is by no means mandatory, but it’s highly recommended.
You are free to choose any GP 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.
There are also some extra things you may want to take into account when choosing a GP:
- Find a practice that’s close to where you live. Ideally, your huisarts should be able to reach you within 15 minutes by car in urgent cases. You can find a list of all the GP practices in Maastricht and their locations on our city map
- What is the gender of the GP? Consider that your GP 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, for example for consultation hours?
- 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 GP practices allow you to register online; you’ll have to visit their website and 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.
It’s possible that your GP 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. If you have them on you, it might also be a good idea to bring medical records and information about any medication you might be taking.
Note that you can only be registered with one GP at a time.
Making an appointment
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; ask the GP assistant to see if this is an option.
If you have Dutch basic health insurance, then seeing a GP 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 €30.91. Generally, if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can pay for the appointment yourself and claim the money from your national insurance provider.
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 changed 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 de-register from your old one. When doing so, you should inform your prior GP of a few things:
- As of when you switch to the new GP
- Why you decided to switch to another GP
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.