Rose is a 29-year old young lady with a chronic condition, living in the northern part of North-Holland, The Netherlands. The area where she lives has been suffering from GP shortages for some time already, and some of the GP practices in the area are now being covered by a commercial GP service provider. Several such commercial operators are active in The Netherlands, with promises of a more business-like, efficient and effective service delivery. But these operators, too, have difficulty filling the duty rosters. In one instance, they had to resort to a substitute doctor who was only present two days a week.
Rose’s condition requires her to regularly update and renew her prescription medication; without it, she risks additional problems such as heart failure. Last autumn, she couldn’t get it. “The GP assistant simply told me that no GP was available to renew my prescription and that she didn’t know when one would be available again.”
She also needs to undergo regular monitoring and lab tests, which are normally performed by her GP as well, but could not be done now, either. She eventually managed to convince one of her other treating doctors to do those tests for her.
Rose: “I tried to switch doctors and register with one of the other general practices in this region. But none of them is taking new patients. When I only had medication left for one day, I pleaded with the assistant to renew the prescription for me, which she did. It’s actually not allowed, and I would hate to get her into trouble, but I was at my wit’s end. At least she helped me!”
In order to raise awareness, not only about her own plight, but about the GP situation in her area in general, Rose filed a complaint with the National Health Inspectorate, but received only a formal acknowledgment of receipt. She approached the regional health insurance company, spoke with the director of the commercial provider and discussed the situation with the local alderman – all to no avail. Everyone is aware of the problems, yet no one seems to be able to make solutions happen. They all point to each other for the ‘magic bullet’ intervention.
And Rose? “I have a new GP now, and feel lucky to have found one. But having a GP who is familiar with you and your condition should not depend on ‘luck’ in a rich country like The Netherlands. And I know there are many more people who still need to shop around to see a GP.”