How does Dutch health insurance and the Dutch medical care system work?

If you have IBD (Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis) and live, work or study (temporarily) in the Netherlands, you may have questions about health insurance. Or what to do if you need to see a physician.

Below you will find the following information:

  • Dutch Health Insurance
  • Dutch Medical care system
  • Do you want to speak to somebody with IBD?
  • Where to find information on Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Living and/or working in the Netherlands

If you come from abroad to live or work in the Netherlands, you are legally obliged to take out standard health insurance to cover the cost of, for example, consulting a general practitioner, hospital treatment and prescription medication. You may also opt to take out additional insurance to cover costs not included in the standard package, such as physiotherapy or dental care.

Studying in the Netherlands

If you come to the Netherlands as a student, other rules may apply. Check which rules apply for you on this website.

How do I sign up for Dutch medical care?

If you are currently working in the Netherlands you will be automatically insured for the Long-Term Care Act and eligible for support through the Social Support Act if needed.

Upon registering with the municipality (gemeente), you will receive a social security number (BSN) that you will need to register for the mandatory Dutch health insurance. Applying can be done easily online, using this comparison tool: Compare and find a Dutch Health insurance.
Sometimes the insurance company will ask you to provide proof of residency, your passport or a letter from your employer.

Healthcare allowance

If your income is relatively low, you may be entitled for a healthcare allowance from the government. This benefit is arranged through the Dutch Tax Authority (Belastingdienst).

Access to medical care in the Netherlands

Infographic – Healthcare in the Netherlands

If you know you will be needing medical care for your IBD, for example a medication prescription or your infliximab infusion, you will need to register with a local doctor, before being able to go to a pharmacy or gastroenterologist in the hospital.




Step-by-step instruction access medical care

After you have applied for health insurance or if you have your own foreign healthcare or travel insurance, you can follow this stepwise-instruction to get access to medical care:

The first step is to register with a local doctor/general practitioner (in Dutch: huisarts). This can be done of the phone or by making an appointment. Some GP-offices also give you the option to register with them online. You can find a GP near your house using

In order to pick-up prescriptions you will also need to register with a pharmacy, preferably nearby. This can usually be done on the phone or through an e-mail. Find a pharmacy

The first time you visit a pharmacy it is important to bring your insurance card and ID.

When you have a non-urgent medical or mental issue the local family doctor (GP) is the first point of contact. You can call the GP-office, explain your issue and make an appointment. They will usually have a spot for you the same day or the next day, depending on your medical complaints.

Your GP is very well capable to provide you with a good consultation or simple medical treatment. If necessary the GP will prescribe medication, such as pain killers, antibiotics, antiviral drugs or anti-allergy pills.

Your doctor can also:

  • Issue a referral to a (mental) clinic, psychologist or healthcare provider
  • Prescribe a blood or urine test to further examination

Most doctors in The Netherlands will speak proficient English.

For non-urgent hospital care you will need a referral from your general practitioner. For example, when you need to see a specialist (e.g. a gastroenterologist) or get an x-ray. Medical specialists work in hospitals or dedicated medical clinics. Most hospitals/clinics are operated privately. Check with your insurance company (zorgverzekeraar) if they are covered.

Depending on your medical issue, there will be a waiting period for hospital care. Your GP and insurance company can help you find a hospital with a lower waiting time.

For urgent medical care that is not life-threatening you can call your GP’s office. In the phone menu you will get the option to choose urgent medical care (spoedgeval).

The GP’s office is only available during working hours. Outside working hours you can contact an urgent care centre (in Dutch: huisartsenpost).

For urgent medical care, such as a dislocated shoulder, you can also directly go straight to a hospital’s emergency room (ER (in Dutch: spoedeisende hulp).


  • Use Google Maps to find a huisartsenpost or hospital nearby.
  • In case you go the huisartsenpost or ER directly it could be wise to let them know you are coming, whenever possible.

For medical emergencies you will need to call 112. This number is meant for possibly life-threatening situations, such as:

  • A heart attack/failure
  • If you believe immediate medical care is needed
  • A road accident
  • A crime

If you have a speech or hearing problem, call 0800 8112 and you can type a message to the emergency call centre.

Good to know:

Emergency and urgent medical care are usually also covered for those with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

For other healthcare types you will usually not need a referral from your local doctor, such as:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Dietary advice

You won’t need a referral either for healthcare that is covered only through your supplemental health insurance, such as:

  • Dental care
  • Alternative healing
  • Podotherapy
  • Orthodontics

You can directly contact your healthcare provider or dentist.

I want to speak to somebody with IBD

If you would like to talk with somebody with IBD and/or ask your questions to somebody living in the Netherlands?

  • Send your request to and somebody with IBD will get in touch with you as soon as possible.
  • Call us on Monday-Thursday between 10.00 and 12.30 at: 0348 – 420 780

Where can I find English information on Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis?

  • You can find extensive information in English on the website of our British sister organisation Crohn’s & Colitis UK.