COVID-19 and the Long-Term Care system in the Netherlands

Structural characteristics of the LTC system, impact of the pandemic, measures adopted and new reforms

This country profile brings together information on the experience of the long-term care sector (focussing on people who use and provide care) during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands from a living international report on COVID-19 Long-Term Care. It also provides links to research projects on COVID-19 and long-term care, to key reports, and lists key experts on the impacts of COVID-19 on the long-term care sector in the Netherlands.

Experts on COVID-19 and long-term care in the Netherlands that have contributed to this report:


Living report: COVID-19 and the Long-Term Care system in the Netherlands

PART 1 – Long-Term Care System characteristics and preparedness
  • 1.01. Population size and ageing context
    Data shows that in 2020, the Netherlands had a population of about 17.4 million. Nearly 114,000 people aged 65 and over live in residential care and nursing homes.
  • 1.02. Brief description of the Long-Term Care system

    Since 2015, LTC is governed through three separate legal acts: the Long-term Care Act (WLZ 2014), the Social Support Act (WMO 2015) and the Health Expenses Act (Zvw 2008). As a result, there are different rules and funding streams for care-related (LTC insurance), social support related (municipalities) and health and nursing related (health insurance) services. LTC is needs assessed but not means assessed (source:

  • 1.03. Long-term care financing arrangements and coverage

    Public expenditure on LTC as percentage of GDP was estimated to be 3.5% in 2016, more than twice the European Union average of 1.6% (source: Seventy five percent of spending is allocated to residential care. Private expenditure on LTC (co-payments and out of pocked payments) is relatively low. However, in residential care, residents have to contribute to their board and accommodation. Co-payments have increased considerably for those with higher incomes. Cash for care has been a recent addition for people receiving community care, but in 2016, only 4.7% of recipients of home care aged 65 and over had a personal budget. Benefits are universal but needs tested. There has been a marked shift over time from institutionalisation to community care, with substantial involvement from patient and client organisations. There has been another more recent shift from collective (state) responsibility to individual responsibility and self-reliance. Involvement of unpaid carers, especially families, is now part of the official policy. This however goes against the widespread view that the state should take responsibility for older people in need of care. It is also recognised that this shifts the burden of care back to women (source:

  • 1.04. Long-term care system governance

    The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for care homes, social care and nursing care (i.e. all aspects of LTC), as well as health. Since 2015, community care has been devolved to private insurers and municipalities. Regional care offices contract with (WLZ and ZVW) providers and have a responsibility to ensure that there are sufficient services to meet demand. These offices are run by one private care insurer who represents all care insurers active in the region. Municipalities are responsible to provide services under the WMO and have incentives to reduce costs.

  • 1.07. Care coordination and personalization

    The Netherlands has been experimenting with various integrated care initiatives over the past years (source: WHO | World Health Organization).

  • 1.09. Care home infrastructure

    Care homes are distinguished by whether they have an WLZ (Wet langdurige zorg, LTC) accreditation. These mostly include nursing homes and residential care homes with a nursing department. Care homes without a WLZ accreditation do not provide nursing care or medical treatments, but are residential homes that provide small-scale elderly housing and apartments linked to nursing homes, in which additional care can be provided as needs increase. In addition, there are private care homes for more affluent residents who contribute more to the costs of housing and facilities (such as entertainment). There is also small-scale housing where people pool their WLZ cash (provided as a personal budget) and which are self-organised or provided by entrepreneurs. Nearly 114,000 people aged 65 and over live-in residential care and nursing homes (source:

  • 1.11. Workforce conditions: pay, employment conditions, qualification levels, shortages

    The government provides subsidies for people wishing to go into LTC training. Dual career track is available for nurses working in general care and geriatrics. The Netherlands has developed stress management/coaching programmes on healthier work environment and prevention of work-place accidents for LTC centres to help decrease absenteeism  (source:

  • 1.12. User voice, choice and satisfaction

    In the Netherlands all care homes are required, by law, to have “client councils” that have the right to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives. The members of the councils are residents or their representatives, and the councils have the right to participate in the strategic management of the care homes. They need to be consulted about organisational issues and have a right to consent to decisions that affect the residents’ daily lives. They also have the right to provide advice (source: and

  • 1.14 Pandemic preparedness of the Long-term care sector

    The Netherlands had a national pandemic action plan in place as well as various obligations on hospitals and others to have disaster relief plans. However, these were seen as insufficient. It was also criticised that the government had ignored recommendations provided by experts following the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the 2018 influenza epidemic. The national plan had specific appendices for care and nursing homes (source:–/view).

PART 2 – Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who use and provide Long Term Care
PART 3 – Measures adopted to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who use and provide Long-Term Care
PART 4 – Reforms to strengthen Long-Term Care systems and to improve preparedness for future pandemics and other emergencies

Printable version of this country profile:

To cite this report:

TBC. LTCcovid country profile – the Netherlands. In: Comas-Herrera A., Marczak J., Byrd W., Lorenz-Dant K., (editors) International living report on COVID-19 and Long-Term Care users and providers: context, impacts, measures and lessons learnt. LTCcovid, Care Policy and Evaluation Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science. Available at:

Ongoing research projects on COVID-19 and Long-Term Care in the Netherlands:

Most recent LTCcovid report for the Netherlands (November 2020):

Acknowledgement and disclaimer

This report has been initially developed by the team working on the Social Care COVID Recovery and Resilience project and questions will be added to and validated by LTCCovid contributors who are experts on Long-Term Care in their respective countries. This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme (NIHR202333). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.