More than a quarter (28%) of holidaymakers believe that they need not pay for medical care if travelling in Europe, a study by Primary Insurance has shown.
Some 40% of respondents thought that taking an E111 form onto the Continent would cover them for all their health and safety needs.
But, says the insurer, the form is often limited to state hospital services, leaving travellers to pay for doctor's fees, medicines and dental care.
Travellers must pay a daily hospital charge in France and Austria, Primary pointed out, while travellers to the Balearic or Canary Islands might be far from state health clinics and have to fork out for private care.
It warned that the standard of state health treatment varied from country to country, and added that people forgot that popular destinations such as Turkey, which has applied to join
the European Union, and Switzerland, which is not a member, had no reciprocal agreements with the UK.
Primary Insurance spokesman Tim Berry said: “The British public has some strange ideas about the kind of medical treatment available to them abroad.
“What the British traveller often forgets is that, although the E111 covers them for illness or injury, it does not cover other eventualities such as personal liability, personal baggage, cancellation or travel delay.”
Berry added that services to fly sick holidaymakers home were an important benefit of travel insurance.
“Primary Insurance repatriates more than 3,000 people a year from all over the world and these people would be stranded or desperately out of pocket if it wasn't for travel insurance,” Berry said.
He called for travel agents to alert customers to the fact that commercial aircraft carriers often did not allow ill or injured people onto their flights and that it could be necessary to pay a doctor or nurse to accompany them.
To help agents understand and explain the E111 more clearly, Primary Insurance has put together a map of E111 blackspots within Europe, designed to encourage the British traveller to read carefully what the E111 does and does not cover.