An undercover investigation at a North-East care home televised tonight (Monday) will look at allegations made by staff from abroad who claim they feel 'exploited and trapped'.

A BBC Panorama reporter got a job as a care assistant at Addison Court in Crawcrook, Gateshead, after concerns were raised about conditions at the home.

The care home has many workers from overseas eligible for a skilled worker visa, meaning they can work in the UK, but need to be sponsored by an employer.

Prestwick Care, which has 15 homes in the North East, employs about 180 overseas workers who are in the UK on visas making up nearly a third of its staff.

The Northern Echo: The investigation centred on Addison Court Care Home in CrawcrookThe investigation centred on Addison Court Care Home in Crawcrook (Image: Google)In the programme staff tell the reporter they feel ‘exploited and trapped’ by the firm, claiming their contracts prevent them from leaving.

Prestwick Care denies any suggestion of wrongdoing or bad practice.

An Indian nurse tells the reporter she was unhappy in her job, but claims she felt she could not quit, because her visa was sponsored by Prestwick Care, and she believed she had no choice.

A male worker said he was asked to sign a contract meaning he would have to pay Prestwick Care more than £4,000 if he left.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Code of Conduct, staff should not have to pay these costs.

He claims he was told: "If you don't want to stay here on that contract, you can go back to India."

Prestwick denies that its contracts are designed to intimidate its employees and says it is now reviewing repayment clauses in all staff contracts.

Panorama also investigated how low staffing allegedly affect standards of care at the home.

An NHS nurse claims she was so worried about some residents that she made 33 safeguarding alerts over a two-year period to the Gateshead Council.

A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said: “The BBC investigation claims to have uncovered evidence of poor clinical practice at the care home, including concerning recruitment practices with overseas staff, which are now being investigated by the local authority, partners, and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

“We wish to acknowledge the concerns of families and residents at the home who may have heard rumours about the allegations being investigated.

“While we cannot comment further on the concerns raised by the BBC to protect the personal data of those involved, we would like to offer reassurance that we are supporting all those affected and working together with partners to protect the wellbeing of the residents and staff at the home.”

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According the programme, Prestwick Care, which is based in Newcastle, had its licence to sponsor overseas staff suspended by the Home Office last December.

It said the Home Office has now "fully revoked" Prestwick Care's licence to sponsor overseas staff.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), has also suspended Addison Court's "good" rating and said it was ‘closely monitoring Addison Court along with the other locations registered to this provider’.

The CQC has also said enforcement powers could be used ‘to keep people safe’.

Prestwick Care told the BBC any suggestion that there has been systematic wrongdoing or bad practice, is ‘unfair and inaccurate’.

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It said that the safety and wellbeing of staff remains paramount, and that it is "fully committed to thoroughly investigating all concerns raised, and taking appropriate actions as necessary".

The full investigation, Panorama: Care Workers Under Pressure, is on BBC One at 7pm tonight (Monday) and BBC iPlayer.

Those affected by the programme are asked to contact Gateshead Council’s Panorama response team by email

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