Your GP in Groningen
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General Practitioner or Family doctor
In the Netherlands, you need to register with a family doctor (huisarts) or general practitioner, which plays a prominent role in the Dutch health care system.
General practitioners are specialised in treating patients with common and minor illnesses, and some minor surgical procedures (major procedures still take place in hospital). They can answer most general health questions and provide care for chronically ill patients. They also serve as your referral link with other medical services, such as hospitals, specialists, home care, etc.
It is normal for children to go to their parents’ family doctor. Paediatricians normally only see children with special needs or conditions. From the ages of 0 to 4, children are regularly invited to appointments at their nearest consultatiebureau (child health clinic), but this is in addition to their registration at your own GP.
In the Netherlands, you cannot see a specialist or receive (non-emergency) hospital care without a referral from your GP. Types of specialists in the Netherlands include (but are not limited to) psychotherapy, dietitian and opthalmologists. However, you can see an optician or physiotherapist without a referral. You can only be referred to a specialist by your general practitioner, and they will only provide a referral if they deem that you are in need of specialist care. Most specialists have consulting hours in hospitals and at the outpatient clinics (polikliniek). You are free to ask your GP for more information or additional services that you want or feel that you need. If you disagree with your doctor’s assessment, you have the right to a second opinion, but be sure to check if your health insurance will cover it.
Family doctor practices
The location of your family doctor is based on your registered address. You should be registered at a GP located near your home, in case of the need for home visits. You can ask around in your neighborhood, or among colleagues and friends, to find a family doctor. You can also ask at your nearest pharmacy (apotheek), or visit the Independer website (in Dutch) or on a search engine’s map to find the nearest family doctor.
By Dutch law, Doctors can only accept a certain number of patients. If a practice has reached their maximum number of patients, they may not be able to accept you and you you will likely have to choose a different doctor.
One exception to this is HuisartsGroningen.nl located at Health Center Groningen (Gezondheidscentrum Groningen), where more and more healthcare providers are settling. This means you can go see your general practitioner, pharmacist, dietician, physiotherapist, psychologist and specialist from the hospital all in the same building.
Many family doctors offer an intake consultation to discuss your medical history and explain the organization of their practice. The medical assistant will inform you about their walk-in hours (spreekuur), as well what times of day during the week that you can call to make appointments or to consult the doctor by telephone. A brochure with this information will be available at the doctor’s office (usually only in Dutch).
Typically, you have to make an appointment in advance and may have to wait a few days to get a slot. Many doctors have daily first-come, first-serve sessions (inloop spreekuur) for short phone or walk-in consultations. You may also be seen by the doctor’s assistant (for blood pressure readings, urine testing, injections) or practice nurse (for monitoring chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes.)
If you call your doctor’s practice during off hours (nights, weekends and holidays), you will get a message (in Dutch) giving you the name and number of the doctor on duty in your area. There is always medical coverage during off hours. Pharmacies follow the same policy regarding opening times.
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Your GP in Groningen
Alice Karmelita (CPC, ELI-MP) is a double-certified, professional coach, former international HR specialist, an expat. Alice is specialized in coaching clients going through stressful transitions in career, business, and relocating.