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Emergency medicine legally recognised as medical specialty in the Netherlands

Emergency medicine will be legally recognised as a medical specialty in the Netherlands after the outgoing health and care minister Ernst Kuipers gave the green light.

This marks the ratification of the decision by the College of Medical Specialists (CGS) in March 2023 to recognise emergency medicine as a medical specialty, which the Dutch Society for Emergency Medicine (NVSHA) has been pursuing for 25 years.

To reach its decision, the CGS tested the 10 criteria for recognition and held an extensive consultation. This confirmed that generalism is an increasingly important element in medicine and the CGS concluded that there is ‘sufficient demarcation’ compared to existing specialisms and ‘a social need’ for emergency medicine.

In a letter to the House of Representatives on 26 October 2023, Mr Kuipers said that he would ‘take into account the current situation on which the CGS’s decision to recognise the emergency doctor as a medical specialist is based. Namely the current situation in the emergency department, such as the open format whereby patients can be seen directly (without the intervention of the emergency physician) by the specialist relevant to them, depending on their care needs, the generalist profile of the emergency physician and the current three-year training period for emergency physicians.’

The NVSHA had informed Mr Kuipers that it endorsed the generalist profile and is committed to a ‘team performance’ with ‘various specialists at the bedside’.

It is thought that the recognition, which will come into force on 1 January 2023, will protect emergency doctor job titles, broaden training opportunities and facilitate applications for subsidies for scientific research and guideline development. Such research could centre on how best to staff emergency departments.

The NVSHA hopes that the recognition will in turn help to retain employees and improve workforce pressures.

Chairman of the Federation of Medical Specialists Piet-Hein Buiting said: ‘The emergency physician has an important role in acute care and I would like to congratulate [the NVSHA] on this legal recognition from the minister.’

In a statement, the European Society for Emergency Medicine said: ‘EUSEM warmly congratulates the NVSHA on this remarkable achievement, which will undoubtedly bring tremendous benefits to the entire healthcare system and emergency medicine doctors in the Netherlands.

‘As a society whose aim is to achieve the recognition of emergency medicine as a specialty across Europe we feel honoured to have the NVSHA as a member and thank NVSHA for their work. We look forward to continued collaborative work to make emergency medicine in Europe the best it can be.’