Healthcare in The Netherlands
How does the healthcare system work in the Netherlands? Where and how can I get tested? What should I do if I have HIV or another STI? Or if I need an interpreter?
General Practitioner (GP): duty of confidentiality
The first person you come into contact with when you are ill is the GP. If you are not yet registered with a GP, you can do so by making an appointment with your GP practice. The GP has a duty of confidentiality. This means that he or she may never discuss your health with others without your permission.
You can visit your GP if you are at risk of an STI of if you think that you have HIV or another STI. The GP can perform an STI test or you can ask for one yourself. If you have an STI, the GP can prescribe you a course of treatment or refer you to a specialist.
Community health clinic: free and anonymous
If you don’t want to visit your GP for an STI test, certain groups of people can be tested at the community health clinic free of charge and anonymously. You can get tested if you or one of your parents come from an area with high rates of STIs and HIV.
These areas are:
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- South America and Suriname
- Middle America and the Caribbean
- Middle East and Mediterranean
- South and Southeast Asia
- Central Asia
- Eastern Europe
If one or more of your sexual partners comes from one of these areas, you can also get tested at the community health clinic. If you have an STI, the community health clinic doctor can prescribe you a course of treatment or refer you to a specialist.
You can also be tested free of charge and anonymously at the community health clinic if:
- You are below 25 years old
- You have obvious symptoms
- You are homosexual or you are a man who also has sex with men
- You are a prostitute, sometimes have sex in return for money or goods, or if you have paid for sex yourself
- You have had more than three sexual partners in the past six months
- You have been warned about an STI by a partner
If you have HIV
If an HIV test reveals that you have HIV, you will be referred to a specialist in internal medicine at an HIV treatment centre at a hospital. In the Netherlands, 26 hospitals and four paediatric hospitals have been designated as treatment centres specialising in the treatment and care of people with HIV. Nurses such as HIV/AIDS nursing specialists, also referred to as HIV specialist nurses, work at these hospitals.
HIV specialist nurse
You will be treated by a specialist in internal medicine and will be assigned an HIV specialist nurse. The specialist in internal medicine concentrates on the medical aspect of HIV, whereas the HIV specialist nurse is mainly there to provide psychosocial assistance and support. The doctor and the HIV specialist nurse in the hospital will tell you more about the treatment of HIV with HIV inhibitors. It is important to start taking medication as early as possible, so that your immune system (health) stays as healthy as possible. HIV is a chronic illness.
Duty of confidentiality
In the Netherlands, patients’ rights are enshrined in law. An important right, for example, is the right to privacy. This means that information about your health cannot be shared with others without your permission. The doctor has a duty of confidentiality.
If you are found to have HIV or another STI, a doctor cannot share this information indiscriminately. Remember that it is important to inform your sexual partners that there is a risk that they have contracted an STI or HIV. The doctor or nurse can help you with this.
Right to clear information and an interpreter
Another right is the right to clear information; information that you as a patient understand. This also applies if you speak no or only limited Dutch. In that case, you can take somebody with you to translate, but that person may not be familiar with all the medical terms or may not be prepared to translate everything. You may not want to have anybody you know with you. In the healthcare system, you are therefore always entitled to a professional interpreter. This interpreter also has a duty of confidentiality.
More information about these and other patient rights:
Healthcare costs and health insurance
Anybody living or working in the Netherlands is required to have basic insurance cover. This basic insurance covers the standard care and costs of a GP, hospital or pharmacy, for example. You can also take out cover for additional care that is not part of the basic cover. You pay a contribution to your health insurance company for this insurance. There is also a policy excess. This means that you have to pay the first EUR 385 of the basic package yourself. People on low incomes are eligible for a contribution to their health insurance costs. This contribution is called the healthcare allowance.
Asylum seekers and people without a residence permit
If you are an asylum seeker or you do not have a residence permit (you are an undocumented or illegal immigrant), you cannot take out health insurance.
Asylum seekers can get their medical care and STI or HIV test from a Health Centre for Asylum Seekers (GC A) or they can make an appointment with a GP via the GC A Practice Line.
No residence permit, but entitlement to medically necessary care
If you are living in the Netherlands without a valid residence permit, you can’t take out health insurance. You are, however, entitled to medically necessary care, even if you can’t pay for it. You will first of all be asked to pay the costs yourself. If this is not possible, discuss it with the doctor. It may be possible to arrange a payment plan or the health provider can recover the costs from the National Health Care Institute.
No residence permit, but you can be tested for HIV or an STI
If you do not have a residence permit, you can get tested for HIV or an STI at your GP, a Community Health Clinic, or at a surgery run by Dokters van de Wereld in Amsterdam of The Hague . If you have HIV or another STI, the treatment comes under medically necessary care. More information about access to healthcare for undocumented individuals.
Report on access to HIV and STI treatment
Not all care providers are up to date with what HIV and STI care can or should be provided to uninsurable foreign nationals in the Netherlands. A report is available with information about how to access healthcare in general and HIV and STI care in particular in the Netherlands. Tell your doctor or nurse about this rapport.