EHIC is hugely beneficial when you are travelling through one of the 31 countries which are part of the scheme. In brief, EHIC gives you access to state healthcare, on the same basis as the locals of that country. State healthcare provision varies in both scope and quality across Europe, and you shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that provision in every country will come up to the same standards of the NHS. EHIC will only ever cover state healthcare; you won’t be able to use the private system in any country under EHIC.
In terms of healthcare, if you’re travelling off the beaten track or to parts of Eastern Europe where the healthcare provision is patchy or poor quality, additional travel insurance is a must. Travel insurance often does cover treatment in private medical facilities, and will pay to fly you back to the UK to continue your recovery if necessary. Depending on your policy, travel insurance may pay for a private hospital room, and added extras such as physiotherapy.
Travel insurance isn’t just about healthcare though, and travel insurance policies will cover lots of other issues which might affect your holiday too. Policies differ in wording so it’s important to compare cover when buying, but most will cover having to cancel your holiday if you fall ill, pay out if you suffer an extensive delay at the airport, or help you with costs if you have your bags and passport stolen. Thousands of Brits take the risk and travel overseas every year without insurance but it simply isn’t the risk; costs for replacing your baggage and getting yourself home in an emergency could easily run into thousands. Shop around for insurance as some underwriters will give a discount on policies if you have EHIC cover too.