BACKGROUND: People with intellectual disability are at risk of poor hospital experiences and outcomes. The aims were to conduct a content and quality review of research into the acute hospital experiences of both people with intellectual disabilities and their carers, and to identify research gaps. METHOD: A systematic search was conducted of primary research between 2009 and 2013 that addressed the experiences of the target group in general acute care hospitals. Quality appraisal tools yielded scores for quantitative and qualitative studies, and overarching themes across studies were sought. RESULTS: Sixteen studies met inclusion criteria. Quality scores were 6/8 for a survey, and 2/11-9/11 (mean =5.25) for qualitative studies/components. Content analysis revealed seven over-arching themes covering individuals' fear of hospital encounters, carer responsibilities, and problems with delivery of care in hospitals including staff knowledge, skills and attitudes. CONCLUSIONS: Our review of eligible papers revealed that despite 20 years of research and government initiatives, people with intellectual disability continue to have poor hospital experiences. The need for research to identify and investigate care at specific points of encounter across a hospital journey (such as admission, diagnostic testing, placement on a ward, and discharge) as well as to include people with a diversity of disabilities is discussed in terms of potential to influence policy and practice across health and disability sectors.