Suppose you want to consult a medical specialist rather than a general practitioner about an issue you're having: an orthopedist, a neurologist, an otolaryngologist, an opthalmologist and so on (but not something like a physical therapist or psychologist, or other para-medical professionals).

Expatica says there are essentially two options:

  • A referral from your general practitioner / family doctor
  • A medical emergency in which you're admitted to a hospital

Is there another way (either covered, partially-covered, or possibly-retroactively-covered by your medical insurance)?

  • How is this about expatriation? Doesn't the same apply to Dutch nationals?
    – fkraiem
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 7:16
  • 1
    @fkraiem: Many if not most of the questions on this site apply to locals, but are things that expatriates don't realize / have difficulties figuring out.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


It is possible, but not covered by insurance.

Source: official government site (in Dutch: "Wilt u een behandeling zelf betalen? Dan heeft u geen verwijzing nodig." - "Do you want to pay for the treatment yourself? Then you don't need a referral")


No, Google Dutch sites for 'Seeing a specialist' and they will tell you that over and over:

From iamexpat.nl:

If you wish to see a specialist, you will need a referral from a general practitioner. You will also need to show this referral to your insurance company if you wish the costs to be covered. Once you have a referral, you can make an appointment with the specialist directly. If you know the specialist you wish to see, you may request a referral to that person.

From xpat.nl:

The GP, if he thinks you need more specialized expertise (or if you think you do), will refer you to a specialist. Most often, this will be someone at the nearest hospital. He will give you a referral notice (containing, among others, a history of your ailment) for the hospital and specialist he feels you should see. This does not mean that you do not have a say in what (type of) specialist you get to see or which hospital you would like to go to. Most GPs are quite flexible and all you have to do is say what (or who) it is you want.

But why would you want to? Your GP is the perfect person to determine which specialist to see and advise you.
If you are asking because you have a conflict with your GP*, find another one or a get a second opinion from another GP (you are always entitled to that).

PS Some institutes claim you can do it with them: "Can I book an appointment directly with a specialist [...]?", but I have no idea what institute this is (private?) and if they do not just follow the path of 'medical emergency'.

* In that case you should have asked that instead of posting an X-Y problem

  • 1. You're overly trusting... GPs are usually totally clueless about anything that's complicated, and even specialists are often hit-or-miss. I once had four orthopedists give me four different opinions about a leg trauma, with three of these opinions being at least partially contradictory. 2. This is an X-Y problem, and I asked Y, but X is too personal for this site. Anyway, +1.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 0:02
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    Also, to make it clear: Will a specialist: 1. Not let me make an appointment without a referral 2. Let me make an appointment but not see me without the referral or 3. See me, but grumble/complain/be stunned that I don't have a referral (and of course charge me)?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 0:04
  • @einpoklum but if you pick the wrong specialist to see you’re wasting everyone’s time and money, and run the risk of getting the wrong treatment. The specialist has his hammer and will tend to treat you as a nail. Being a GP is the most difficult job in health care, and the majority - at least in North West Europe - are much better than you want to give them credit for.
    – rhialto
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 22:22
  • @rhialto: 1. I can pick my specialists just fine, thank you - just like I used to before moving to the Netherlands, when I didn't need the referral in most cases. 2. You're underestimating specialists with the hammer-and-nail metaphor, I think (so pot calling the kettle black...) 3. Being a GP is a difficult job if you actually take it upon yourself to try and make your patients healthy. In my limited experience, few GPs do that.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 22:53
  • Medical systems are structured differently in different countries. Many people are surprised and uncomfortable at how “authoritarian” the Dutch system feels at every step of the way and I have heard many scare stories from people who feel they haven't received the best care because their GP didn't take their complaints as seriously as they would back home. Personally, I don't mind and I don't want to argue either way but I find that asking “why would you want to?” is rather insensitive on a website about moving between cultures.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 19:22

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