Family Medicine in the Netherlands - the Profession

Family Medicine is generalistic, patient-oriented, continuous care. Family Doctors in the Netherlands administer first line, primary care for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most Family Doctors work in private practice although more medical centers with employed Family Doctors are seen. Most regional Family Doctor groups are organised in larger Family Doctor cooperatives which sustain out-of-hours services, mostly run from a central Family Doctor out-of-hours centre. All Family Doctors are educated as generalists, but still many Family Doctors have a specialist interest. Some of these interests are nowadays structured in post-doctoral courses ('kaderopleidingen') in the fields of diabetes, chronic airway disease, mental health, musculosceletal condition, elderly care etc. One of the key characterics of the Dutch medical system is known as the 'gatekeeping' principle of the Family Doctor. In the Netherlands, patients cannot consult a hospital specialist without a required referral. This system is widely accepted, and 90% of all complaints are initially handled by general practitioners. This is considered to be effective en efficient. When care is needed, it is provided by the doctor best equipped to deal with the specific health problem and complex specialist care is reserved for patients requiring specific expertise and highly technical skills. There are more than 8200 Family Doctors in the Netherlands for over 16 million inhabitants. These Family Doctors work in approximately 4600 practices. An average practice has 2350 patients.

References: information adapted from and

Position paper NHG – Core values of General practice – Family Medicine 2011