Access to healthcare

How to access healthcare

Foreigners are able to use the Dutch healthcare system without many problems. Almost all doctors (Arts or Huisarts) will speak at least English and probably another foreign language. Before moving to the Netherlands you should find out whether you are required to have a basic health insurance covering health costs while you are living there.


You are lawfully required to have health insurance covering any services that you require in the Netherlands. However, in the event of an emergency, don’t worry about insurance issues and just head directly to the nearest emergency room (eerste hulp). Under Dutch law, any health organisation - public or private - is required to treat patients in an emergency situation regardless of their insurance status.

Since January 1st 2006, you are lawfully required to identify yourself with official identification before you receive any treatment. There is no age limit when it comes to identifying yourself to health care services. Even if you are younger than 14 you still need to provide identification in order to use the services of the medical staff. If you are rushed to the hospital in an emergency, and you can’t identify yourself, you will have to do so within two weeks of your hospital visit.

Who to call in an emergency

Depending on the emergency, options include calling the central emergency number 112, taking the victim to the A&E department or a nearby hospital, or going to a GP. Below you will find a couple of important Dutch telephone numbers that you can call in case of an emergency.

Central emergency services

If you find yourself in a serious or life-threatening emergency or you need an ambulance, call 112. Calls are free of charge and the operators can speak English. You will be asked for the address and city where you are calling from and the nature of the emergency. Remember that ambulance services are not free of charge, so only call an ambulance if the patient is not able to go by car, taxi, bus or tram.


For non-emergencies you can call the police on this number: 0900 8844. They will connect you to your local police station. For more information visit .

If your passport has been stolen, contact your embassy immediately for instructions. Generally you’ll need to make a statement at a police station to start any kind of official procedure (insurance, applying for a new passport etc.).

A&E department

Please note that the A&E department (spoedeisende hulp) of a hospital is should only be used in serious situations requiring immediate specialist medical treatment. If you go to the A&E department for treatment that could have been done by a GP, you will have to pay for the treatment and your health insurance won’t cover it. Bring identification and your insurance pass if possible when you go to A&E.

Out-of-hours doctor’s service  

In the Netherlands we have an out-of-hours doctor’s service or medical clinic called huisartsenpost for emergencies. This service is run by doctors who take turns working night shifts. Generally you will find the contact information on the door at your local GP practice.

Dental emergencies

Many dentists provide their own emergency services. You can call your own dentist and a recorder message will inform you what to do. To find a dentist go to this website: .

Useful phrases

Here are some Dutch phrases which could come in handy if you find yourself in an emergency situation and no one speaks English.

Call an ambulance - Bel een ambulance

Call the police - Bel de politie

Call the fire brigade - Bel de brandweer

Call a doctor - Haal een doktor

I am ill - Ik ben ziek

Hospital - Ziekenhuis

Dentist - Tandarts

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