You can discuss your health problems (or those of your child) with the GP. The GP keeps track of your overall situation, and that of your family if applicable. The GP knows a lot about many health problems; he or she can advise you, examine you and treat you. And he or she also knows when it is better to refer you to a specialist or a different healthcare provider. If you deal with more than one healthcare provider, the GP is the one who coordinates the care they provide. The GP evaluates and treats most health problems himself or herself.
GP assistant (doktersassistent)
The first point of contact at your GP practice, whether by telephone or at the front desk, is the GP assistant. He or she will help you make an appointment with the GP or another professional at the practice. The GP assistant is a medical professional who works closely with the GP. He or she also has a duty of confidentiality.
A GP assistant is professionally trained to provide advice on a wide variety of ailments and illnesses. He or she can also discuss lab or test results with the patient (after the GP has evaluated them). The GP assistant is fully qualified and trained to carry out a variety of treatments and tests for patients, either independently or under the doctor’s orders. Treatments and tests that they can carry out include cervical smear tests, urine tests, blood pressure checks, injections, glucose testing and ear wax removal. Under the direction of the GP they are trained to carry out ECG tests, visual exams, remove stitches, treat wounds and warts, and many other treatments and tests as recommended by the doctor.
Practice nurse (praktijkondersteuner)
If you have a chronic disease or condition, you might see the practice nurse. She carries out the check-ups for one or more chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma. The practice nurse has been trained to do this and has received instructions from the GP. Like the GP, the practice nurse has a duty of confidentiality.
If you have mental health symptoms, discuss them with your GP first. Afterwards, the GP can ask the mental health practice nurse (praktijkondersteuner GGZ or POH-GGZ) to help you. For example, by helping to define your problems and by arranging short-term treatment. The mental health practice nurse will regularly discuss how things are going with your GP. Like the GP, the mental health practice nurse has a duty of confidentiality.
Sometimes you will see someone during consultation hours who can take over tasks from the doctor independently. This healthcare provider is called a physician assistant. You can see him or her for problems with your airways or your skin, problems with wounds or joints, or to find out more about birth control. This can vary from one GP practice to another. The physician assistant may prescribe medication, perform minor procedures and refer you to a specialist in the hospital. However, your GP will still be your own doctor. If the care is complicated, you will see your own GP. Like the GP, the physician assistant has a duty of confidentiality.
If necessary, the GP or physician assistant will refer you to another healthcare provider, such as a dietician, a physiotherapist, a psychologist or a social worker. Or you may be referred to a specialist in the hospital, such as an internist, a surgeon, a gynaecologist or a psychiatrist. You will then receive a referral letter (digitally or on paper). This letter states why you are being referred and the question for the specialist. This could be for further examination and testing or treatment. The referral letter is necessary in order to make an appointment with the specialist. If the GP thinks you need to be seen very soon, he or she (or the GP assistant) will make the appointment for you. But usually you will have to call the outpatient clinic in the hospital yourself to make an appointment.
Referrals are always made in consultation with you. If you want a referral and the GP does not think it is necessary, the GP will explain why.
After you have been to see a specialist, for further examination or testing or for an operation or another form of treatment, the specialist will send your GP a letter. This letter states the results of the examination and/or tests, what operation was performed, how the operation went and/or what treatment was started. It also states whether any check-ups are necessary and whether these will be performed by the specialist or whether the GP can carry them out himself or herself.