Not all visits to the doctor can be planned! If you are in urgent need of medical help at the weekend or during the night, go to the "Ambulanz" or "Notaufnahme" ward (Accident and Emergency) of the nearest hospital or call a doctor on 116117 (Ger. "ärtzliche Bereitschaftdienst"). It is a good idea to have the details at hand as soon as you move to a new area: you will find them in the local newspapers under "Notdienst" (emergency service) or "Ärztlicher Notdienst" (medical emergency service), in the telephone directory and on the Internet.
General emergency numbers in Germany:
112 Fire brigade / ambulance
To see a doctor, you will need either the public health insurance or a private insurance. The public health insurance covers most in and outpatient costs, dental care, medication, medical rehabilitation and long-term care insurance. It will cover the costs for your non-working spouse and children. Most Germans find their doctors by looking them up in the Yellow Pages or asking friends and colleagues. They usually have a "Hausarzt" (General Practitioner) as their family doctor. Your GP will, if necessary, refer you to a specialist or to a hospital although you can also go to one without a referral (Ger. "Überweisung"). Costs will mostly be covered by your insurance. Your insurance provider will supply you with these details. Here is some advice on making an appointment with a doctor.
In Germany, you can only buy medicines in a chemist. A few painkillers and the like are sold over the counter. For most medicines, however, you will need a prescription (Ger. "Rezept") from a doctor. Take the prescription with you to the chemist and they will be able to provide you with the drugs. You will find that chemists don´t always have every medication in stock, but they will order it for you and it will be available within a few hours. Some chemists will deliver to your home!
Publicly insured patients may need to pay a set fee for the drugs, though all costs of drugs for children which are printed on pink prescription forms are covered by the insurance companies. If you are privately insured, you will have to pay the full price and then claim this money back from your insurer.
At the weekend or during the night there will be a pharmacy open in your area. The addresses are listed in local newspapers under "Apothekennotdienst", on chemist´s shop windows, and online (e.g. Apothekenfinder - insert your postcode or the name of your town to find the addresses).
Pink: if you are covered by a public health insurance company, your doctor will use the pink slip to prescribe medicines which are allowed and covered by the insurance company. Adults usually pay a set amount at the chemist. Children get these medicines for free. This prescription is valid for three months but should be taken to the chemist as soon as possible.
Blue (usually): if your doctor is treating you privately, either because you have a private health insurance or because the drug is not covered by the public insurance company, you will get a different prescription slip, which is usually blue. In this case, you will have to pay for the drugs yourself. If you are privately insured you will be reimbursed. The prescription is valid for three months.
Green: These are used for medicines which are not covered by any insurance but are recommended by your doctor. They are valid indefinitely.
Yellow: These are for narcotic agents and are only valid for 7 days. They are also issued with two copies and numbered.