How to survive in Groningen: When you need a doctor

Studying abroad is all about new experiences and meeting new people. But it also means you’ll encounter a new healthcare system. Before you start your student life in Groningen, it might be useful to familiarise yourself with the Dutch system.

To make use of the Dutch healthcare provisions, you need a BSN: a burgerservicenummer (citizen service number). You need this anyway if you want to live in the Netherlands. You can apply for this number at your local municipality.

As soon as you have received your BSN, you can register with a general practitioner (huisarts). In the Netherlands, you can choose your own GP. On this website you can find and compare the doctors in your area.

In general, Dutch doctors do speak English. The StudentArts specialises in expats and students and is therefore a safe choice.

Making an appointment

Once you are registered at a general practitioner’s clinic, making an appointment when you’re feeling ill is easy. You can go online or call your doctor’s office to schedule a time to come by.

In the Netherlands, GPs serve as gatekeepers to further medical services. This means that you will always need to schedule a visit with your GP before going anywhere else, like a specialised department in the hospital.


That also applies to the access to medication. In the Netherlands, simple treatments for things like the flu can be bought at drugstores – like Kruidvat and Etos – without a prescription. Specialised drugs are only available in pharmacies. For these, you need a prescription from your GP.


Usually, you also need a referral letter of the GP to go to the hospital. But what if you are in need of medical care outside of the regular office hours? In this case, you can call the Doctor’s Service Groningen (Doktersdienst) at 0900-9229. They can forward you to the general practitioner’s emergency room or, in a worst case scenario, send you an ambulance. Keep in mind that such an emergency visit is often not covered by your insurance. So only go there if it is really necessary.

In case of an acute medical emergency, you need to call 112 – the national emergency number. 


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