In the Netherlands there are four levels of healthcare.
Preventive care (nuldelijnszorg)
Preventive care is always available and you don’t have to ask for it. Examples include vaccination programmes (childhood immunisations, or recently Covid-19 vaccinations) and national screening programmes, in which people of a particular age are tested for certain conditions, such as breast cancer. Participation in these programmes is voluntary. Preventive care is often provided by municipal health services (GGDs).
Primary care (eerstelijnszorg)
If you have physical symptoms or need help, you can talk to a primary care provider.
Primary healthcare and support is available in all Utrecht districts. These services for both physical and mental healthcare are easily accessible without referral. Some primary care, including GP care, is free of charge. Primary social support from Neighbourhood teams (Buurtteams) is free as well.
These no-cost primary healthcare and support services in Utrecht are referred to as Basic care (Basiszorg).
Secondary care (tweedelijnszorg)
If a health problem requires specialised care that cannot be provided by primary care professionals, patients are referred to secondary care. Secondary care treatment is only possible with a referral. Most patients are referred by their GP. Secondary care includes hospital care, mental healthcare, and specialised youth care.
Tertiary health care (derdelijnszorg)
If mental or physical health problems require an even higher level of specialised care, patients are referred to top-level clinical care facilities. This is called tertiary care. Examples include academic hospitals and specialist cancer or burns hospitals.