How to survive Dutch medicine

Blog from Amsterdam Daily:


Going to a doctor in the Netherlands can be quite a culture shock: most of the time you go home without a prescription or you get to hear you can take another paracetamol. ‘Why on earth am I paying 150 a month to hear this kind of bullsh*t?’ is a very common complaint on the expat message boards. So how to survive these Dutch doctors who will almost never give you what you want?

Get a good GP

Of course, you have thought of this yourself. But what constitutes a good GP? The one that caters to all your needs or a doc that actually saves your life when necessary? We tend to opt for the last one. But how to find this holy medical grail? Ask around. Preferably ask people with medical knowledge/skills. And no, this does not include people who bought a copy of Merck manual.

Try to understand the Dutch System

Even though you get the feeling the doctor is extensively trained to kill you, he actually isn’t. The medicine we practice is based on a lot of research. Unfortunately for you, most research reveals a lot of medicine are useless to give. So, we don’t give them. This is very confusing for most expats that are used to the traditional ritual of ‘I am in pain, I go to my doctor, he gives me meds’. So what on earth is our medicine then? LISTENING. Dutch GPs are trained to listen. This seriously is their main task. After a lot of listening we will tell you the complaint will probably go away and you can take a paracetamol if necessary. And yes we know you will hate us. But a good GP will save the good meds, the research and the hospital for the times you actually need it.

I don’t care about those stupid Dutch ‘listening’ GPs, just give me my meds!

OK, so you don’t like the Dutch approach. We can imagine. In Holland the GP is not a god. Our society is quite egalitarian. So talk to the GP. Explain the extent of your complaints, explain you took all the paracetamols, ibuprofens and whatever, explain you have already waited for 2 weeks and are still sick. Explain what you expect from the GP (I want those darn medicine!). There still is a chance you won’t get the meds or research you want, but your doc does this for a reason. Ask him to explain why on earth he is doing stuff you do not understand.

Why don’t you hand out strong painkillers?

Besides our Calvinistic nature (we like to suffer, we’ve got a looooong history of that), we are actively trying to prevent pain killer addiction. We are quite good at that. This means we almost never give the strong stuff, since people tend to get addicted in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, this can mean some suffering on your side. If you don’t like this, you can always try to order some of the stronger stuff from China (but be aware, there is a lot of dangerous poison-riddled stuff out there!).

I am not satisfied with my GP/don’t trust him.

Get another one. Or get a second opinion. It’s allowed here.

Help, I’ve got a medical problem and it’s evening/nighttime.

Call the huisartsenpost. They can give you advice or let you come to the clinic. This saves you tons of money (it is covered by every insurance) and a lot of waiting time on an ER.

I still hate that Dutch medical system & your GPs seriously want to kill me!

No, we don’t. We only kill our elderly.


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