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ACCESS NL > Healthcare in the Netherlands > Dutch healthcare system > Medical specialists
If you call your usual tandarts (dentist) outside normal opening hours, a recorded telephone message will usually provide contact details for an on-duty dentist. Often these messages are recorded in Dutch, so it is helpful to have a Dutch speaker available to listen to the message. Alternatively, you can find a list of 24-hour medical service and dentist numbers at the ACCESS website: www.access-nl.org/living-in-the-netherlands/living/emergency-numbers-and-other-useful-information.
The first thing you need to do is ask for a referral from your huisarts (GP). A referral is necessary to be able to visit a medical specialist. Once you have a referral, you can make an appointment. Depending on the specialisation and the facilities of the hospital, there may be waiting time from a few weeks to a few months. Health insurance companies may offer mediation to access treatment as soon as possible.
An alternative to seeing a medical specialist in a hospital is visiting one in an independent clinic. Here ambulatory and acute care are provided, but without major surgical or pre- and post-operative care facilities.
On your first visit to the medical specialist, you may be required to complete a questionnaire about your medical history and various lifestyle factors. If this is the case, the information will be registered in the hospital’s patient database.
If you want to visit a medical specialist without a referral, your health insurance may not cover this and you may have to pay for the costs yourself. You should check with your health insurance company what the coverage is.
Please keep in mind that the GP acts as a gatekeeper to wider Dutch healthcare and received 3 years of specialist training after 6 years of basic medical education. The huisarts treats less complicated problems and can determine which specialist(s) to consult if necessary. The GP can also answer most of your general health questions. He/she will also perform, for example, standard gynaecological or paediatric examinations and minor surgeries.
There is also a chance that you will not be able to make an appointment, even if you are willing to pay for the costs yourself. This is because some practices refuse doing it due to the complex administration involved.
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