The Netherlands is among the countries with the highest health expenditure as a percentage of GDP. Health spending is not only high, but also goes up nearly every single year. Key factors behind the long-term increase are economic growth, technological advances, population growth and ageing.
In 2016, health care expenditure in the Netherlands amounted to 10.3 percent of GDP. This was more than the European Union average (9.9 percent). In France and Germany, health spending accounted for more than 11 percent of GDP. Spending was lowest in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Luxembourg at less than 7 percent.
High spending on long-term care
The high level of health care spending in the Netherlands is mainly caused by spending on long-term care. This amounts to 2.7 percent of GDP, excluding assistance care and home care (to enable comparison with other countries). The share is only higher in Denmark and Sweden. Spending on preventive health care is also relatively high. On the other hand, spending on pharmaceuticals and medical aids is very low in the Netherlands at 1.2 percent of GDP against an EU average of 1.8 percent.
Few foreign medical doctors
Although medical diplomas from any EU country are formally recognised throughout the European Union, foreign practitioners are rare in the Netherlands, unlike in some other EU countries. Just over 2 percent of Dutch practitioners hold a foreign medical qualification. The share exceeds 10 percent in France, Belgium and Germany. It is even almost 30 percent in the UK. In 2016, there were over 60 thousand physicians in the Netherlands. This is 1 practitioner for every 282 inhabitants.
Efficient cardiovascular care
The growth in Dutch care spending has been tempered by changes in the way health care is dispensed. For example, the average hospital stay for treatment of cardiovascular disease was reduced from 8 to 5.5 days between 2004 and 2016. If fewer occupant days are an indicator for more efficiently organised care, then clinical heart care is better organised in the Netherlands. At French hospitals, heart patients can stay for seven days; in Belgium it is eight days, while Germany and the UK offer as long as nine days.