The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) called on the NHS to make better use of retired workers.
A recent survey of over 200 retired surgeons showed just 15 per cent were asked to return to the NHS to help during the pandemic, college president Michael Griffin said.
Many others made offers to return which were not acknowledged or taken up, he added.
"NHS trusts and health boards across the UK really need to consider the option of using retirees more seriously, and ensure they can be mobilised efficiently, especially when people have come forward to volunteer,” Prof Griffin said.
He added: “The NHS must harness this ready and waiting workforce not just in surgery but across the NHS workforce and come up with a plan to efficiently reintegrate these individuals into the NHS, and particularly to mobilise much-needed diagnostic centres.”
The RCDEd survey, of 224 retired members of the college, showed that of those who returned to work to support the NHS during the pandemic, almost three quarters said they would be happy to continue doing so at least twice a week.
Prof Griffin added: "Current staff are at breaking point – we cannot expect them to manage the additional load – so we must think outside the box when it comes to staffing, and using those surgeons, nurses and other healthcare professionals who have recently retired to contribute to this significant workload.
“Enlisting the help of appropriate retirees could make a huge difference as they are experienced staff who would be a fantastic resource for the likes of dedicated diagnostic hubs, which we have long called for to begin to help an undoubted ‘hidden wave’ of patients who have not presented during the pandemic.”
The Scottish Government has said it will consider a “call to arms” asking retired staff to return during the coming winter, expected to be the “most challenging the NHS has ever faced”.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf is set to give an update on this next week.