More than 16,000 people were on a 40-week waiting list for NHS treatment in Suffolk and north Essex in August, according to figures, with some set to be offered the chance to be seen elsewhere in the country.

The NHS has launched the Patient Initiated Digital Mutual Aid System (PIDMAS) enabling patients who have been waiting 40 weeks or more and do not have an appointment date to request to move to an alternative care provider to possibly receive treatment sooner.

Patients have to meet a range of criteria to be eligible for the move and national estimates suggest that 5% of those on the 40-week waiting list are suitable.

READ MORE: NHS figures show 285 patients waited more than 12 hours at Suffolk hospital

Anyone who has already got an appointment before Christmas, gastroenterology and paediatric patients and anyone who is not eligible clinically, would not be able to change provider under PIDMAS.

Data from East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, showed there were 11,984 patients on the 40 week list in August, although some will have since been treated while others will have been added to the list.

Meanwhile, at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in Bury St Edmunds, which runs West Suffolk Hospital, there were 4,507 patients waiting more than 40 weeks.

READ MORE: Ipswich news

The aim of PIDMAS is to try and tackle some of the worst bottlenecks in the NHS system by contacting patients who have been waiting the longest.

Treatment can either be in an NHS or a private hospital, while those on low incomes will be entitled to some financial support to help cover travel costs.

An ESNEFT spokesperson said: "Nationally, it is anticipated that as the waiting list stands now, around 5% of patients who have been waiting for their treatment for more than 40 weeks, may be eligible to apply to be considered to have their treatment at a different hospital."

READ MORE: Suffolk news