Is there a confluence between legal and health problems?

To what extent does the confluence between legal and health problems play a role in the practice of Dutch general practitioners? How is this dealt with? Eight Law of Health Care students at Erasmus School of Law researched this question, commissioned by the Council of Legal Help. The Council wished to explore this topic in the light of similar research in Australia, England and Wales and a visit to a legal clinic. The exploratory study of the students from Rotterdam shows that there is a confluence to some extent. In addition, they made five recommendations to the Council.

The research shows that general practitioners in the Netherlands handle requests of patients differently. Doctors can not deal with legal and financial questions, but for many people, general practitioners are the first point of contact for all kinds of aid. The research shows that there is somewhat a confluence between legal and health problems among general practitioners and that these doctors do not have a uniform policy for these problems. 

Flow of information and policy 

Some doctors work on a case-by-case basis, and others have a more structural policy. The foreign researches show a similar situation. Therefore, the researchers recommend a more specific regulation for referrals. The study also shows that the flow of delicate information between physicians and lawyers is difficult, partly because of strict privacy laws. In addition, healthcare providers lose oversight due to the many referrals; as a result, information about progress or the problems at hand gets lost. 


Based on the research results, the research team has five recommendations for the Council for Legal Help. Firstly, follow-up research should be extended to cities and rural areas and other (para-)medical professions. Secondly, there should be more research into whether physicians need internal or external handling of patients' problems. Thirdly, the referral system must be better organised to give doctors a clearer view of to whom they must refer the issue. Fourthly, the researchers stress the importance of better communication and feedback between healthcare providers and legal workers. Lastly, the team pleas for preventive measures to avoid legal and health problems. 

More information

The entire research results can be found here (in Dutch). 

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