"Traumatised" and "exhausted" medical staff need time to recover before tackling an NHS backlog, says the group representing hospitals in England.
Many staff could resign if their wellbeing is not factored into plans to cut waiting lists, NHS Providers said.
The number of people waiting more than a year for surgery rose 1,613 to 192,000 during the Covid pandemic. NHS Providers said demand for hospital beds is easing, but the pressure on intensive care units is still intense.
NHS Providers estimates that it is going to be at least a month before the NHS gets back to normal winter pressures, and trusts are concerned about the transition into the next phase of the pandemic.
Critical work that has been postponed, including a small number of urgent cancer cases, will be a priority, but there remains a need to tackle a wider backlog of routine operations alongside the vaccination programme.
NHS Providers said trusts will work as fast as possible to tackle the backlog, but leaders cannot do so at the expense of staff burnout.
Last month, a study suggested that many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the pandemic were left traumatised by the experience. Nearly half reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking. One in seven had thoughts of self-harming or being "better off dead".
Source: BBC News, 1 February 2021
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