When to call emergency services in the Netherlands

Dutch medical services are available 24/7. It’s important to note, however, that who you need to call depends on the situation. Please read this complete article to avoid either extremes of 1) not getting the right help in time or 2) having to pay for unnecessarily contacting emergency services.


In case of a (life-threatening) emergency that requires immediate help, you should call 1-1-2, no matter what the time. This will put you through to an operator who can directly contact the police, medical services and the fire department, who will then be with you within minutes. If you need help quickly but can make it to the nearest emergency unit (usually at the nearest hospital) that is also an option. If you need help and it cannot wait a few hours, you should definitely contact the emergency services. The same goes if someone that you are caring for or someone near you needs immediate help. If you are in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Out-of-hours medical centre (huisartsenpost)

If you are facing a medical issue outside of standard working hours that doesn’t require immediate help but that cannot wait until the next time your normal GP is available, you should ring the closest out-of-hours medical centre (huisartsenpost). If you don’t know which one that is, your GP’s voicemail will probably provide you with the phone number (and, as with most things, Google is your friend). At the out-of-hours medical centre you will be able to speak to the on-duty GP and they will be able to help you out. Not all countries have this ‘halfway house’ between emergency services and your normal GP (in some countries the emergency services are always your port of call outside normal office hours), but in the Netherlands you are expected to contact the appropriate services. Contacting the emergency services unnecessarily is severely frowned upon and might even be penalised. This should never keep you from getting the help you need, but just be sensible: an ingrown toe nail or manageable headache can wait a few hours, a severely sick child or deep cut might not.

There is also a national Central Doctor’s service (+31 20 592 34 34) that you can call if you do not need an ambulance but are in urgent need of medical advice and are not registered with a GP, cannot reach your GP/out-of-office medical centre.

It is also important to know that the out-of-hours medical centre is (at least partially) covered by your basic insurance, as is a visit to an emergency unit that has been advised by the out-of-hours medical centre. The use of an ambulance is also covered by basic insurance, although you might have to pay something through the deductible excess of your health insurance. If you go the emergency unit on your own behalf unnecessarily, for instance, you will have to pay for that. Find more on health insurance in the Netherlands in one of our previous articles.